© JEFF HARPER/METRO
Leah Parsons recounts the story of her daughter Rehtaeh's cyber-bulling that she feels lead to her eventual suicide.
HALIFAX - Sitting on the couch in her living room, Leah Parsons gathered a blanket around her legs and looked around at the photos of her daughter lining the walls.
“Rehtaeh’s everywhere here,” Parsons said with a sad smile.
Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, died in hospital Sunday, several days after hanging herself following about 18 months of bullying and victimization stemming from a fall night in 2011 when her mother says she was raped by four boys.
“She was a very busy, headstrong girl,” Parsons said in the Cole Harbour home she shares with her partner, Jason, and where Rehtaeh grew up.
In her younger years, Parsons says Rehtaeh was a straight-A student who couldn’t get enough of books and learning and wanted to be a marine activist.
On that November night two years ago, Parsons claims Rehtaeh had been at a friend’s house when the alleged assault occurred. She remembers being told by her daughter that she was led upstairs by one of the boys, but not much else, until she heard the click of a photo being taken.
A few days later, she claims one of the boys sent out the photo via text, and when Rehtaeh walked into the Cole Harbour High School everyone started calling her a “slut.”
“She never could go back to that school again,” Parsons said. “They turned against her.”
Parsons says for months she couldn’t go anywhere without people calling her names or texting horrible things, because they believed the story her attackers had spread around the school.
They reported the alleged sexual assault to police, but charges were never laid and the investigation took about a year to complete, which Parsons says was very frustrating.
“It could have been handled a lot differently,” Parsons said.
She says she is speaking out now because it’s important that people realize how much bullying hurts someone, and to just share Rehtaeh’s side of the story.
“Don’t jump on the victim, help the victim,” Parsons said. “How cruel is the world to do that?”
HALEY RYAN - METRO HALIFAX