Rehtaeh Parsons’ mother says her daughter was once a happy, loving, caring teen. But everything changed in November 2011 after the teen went to a friend’s home in Cole Harbour, N.S.
Leah Parsons says her daughter, who was 15 at the time, was raped by four boys that night and that the event eventually led to her tragic death on the weekend.
“It ended up being four guys and the two girls. They started drinking vodka straight. Somewhere in there, one of the girls left and then it was Rehtaeh with four guys,” says Parsons.
“So, Rehtaeh doesn’t remember all of it. She remembers a guy leading her up the stairs, guys taking turns on top of her.”
She says someone took a photo of the incident.
“Rehtaeh told me it was a picture of her throwing up out the window and a boy having sex with her,” says Parsons.
Parsons says the picture spread like wildfire through Rehtaeh’s high school and through the community of Cole Harbour.
She says her daughter was bullied, shunned and humiliated by most of her classmates - even by people she considered friends. She says some people called Rehtaeh a ‘slut.’
“One girl that was her friend put on her status ‘sluts need to leave the school anyway.’ Just, bullying and boys that she didn’t know sending messages…it was just, was non-stop. She couldn’t show her face in the community anymore because she was called names.”
Rehtaeh’s family supported her through it all; Parsons even left her job so she could focus on her daughter.
The teen eventually switched schools and even checked herself into a hospital for six weeks to help her cope with her depression and suicidal thoughts.
Things slowly improved and she made new friends, but her past followed her like a dark shadow.
Parsons says the 17-year-old hanged herself in the bathroom on Thursday.
“I didn’t even knock on the door. I just picked it open and could feel the weight of her body on the door. I didn’t think anything. I just opened the door and said ‘Rehtaeh.’ Then I had to cut her down. She was hung. She was hanging.”
Rehtaeh’s family took her off life support on Sunday.
Police investigated the sexual assault claim, but no charges were laid in the case.
“They completed their investigation and, in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges,” says Halifax RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae.
On Tuesday, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said he would not order a review of the investigation because there is nothing to indicate that police did not follow proper procedures.
“I think kids have to be accountable for their actions,” says Parsons. “Rehtaeh used to say they’d talk about bullying at school, but they don’t care.”
Rehtaeh’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday.
Parsons says she wants her to be remembered for the sister, daughter and animal lover that she was, and not by the rumours that tortured her young, short life.
Donations in Rehtaeh’s memory can be made to the East Coast German Shepherd Rescue, Metro SPCA, and the Laing House – a Halifax-based peer support organization for youth with mental illness.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl