Posted by: Hannah | 04/11/2013

rage and sorrow

Recent events in my city have torn the heart out of me. Yes, I live in Halifax. No, I didn’t know Rehtaeh Parsons. Yes, I am deeply angry at the boys who raped her, at the school community who criminally harassed her, at the police and prosecutors who did nothing to track down the perpetrators, at the administrators and teachers who claim complete ignorance of eighteen months’ worth of systematic abuse.

I am ashamed, and sad, and helpless. I’ve cried. I said “motherfucker” a lot yesterday. I’m avoiding the radio news because I just cannot explain to my little boys what was done to Rehtaeh and why she died.

I don’t want to read any more. I don’t want to try and explain anymore that rape culture is a real thing and we really live in one. I don’t want to hear one more person say that we need to teach our daughters to be safe. I don’t want to hear one more person yelling “we need to teach our sons not to rape!” If we raise our sons to have respect for everyone, including themselves, sitting them down and saying “hey chuckles, DON’T RAPE!” when they hit puberty will not be necessary, because they will already know that another person’s body is not their playground.

I don’t want to hear the word ‘bullying’ anymore. Stop giving this horseshit a cutesy label. ‘Bullying’ was Gilbert Blythe pinning Anne Shirley’s braid to his desk. Seeing your classmate have too much to drink and thinking “this is my chance”… watching your friends sexually assaulting someone and taking pictures… sharing those pictures around and calling the victim a slut who must have done something to encourage them because otherwise it could happen to any girl, at any time, and we don’t want to acknowledge that, oh no… stop calling it bullying. It makes it too easy for people in authority to brush it off.

I want phrases like “comprehensive anti-bullying strategies” and “addressing the needs of our students” to disappear from  the political lexicon. Quit hiding behind double-speak and studies and task forces.

In the meantime, if you, like me, are struggling to process this, here are some links that express varying angles of tackling this problem, all written by people more eloquent than I am capable of being:

– Bon has veered away from discussing social media and education theory to talk about this. Go read it, right now.

– Rehtaeh’s father wrote about his daughter yesterday. If you can’t bring yourself to read it, just remember this part: My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police.

– Local reporter Selena Ross broke this story on Tuesday morning. She reported the facts of the case with a deft hand and deep sensitivity. Worth reading as an object lesson in how to report on these kinds of events. You listening, CNN?

– Alexandra on wrote this piece yesterday with practical ways to address rape culture.

– This reader-submitted piece about rape culture ran in our local paper yesterday. I’m sure you know this already but don’t read the comments. There are already several posts from overly-defensive men saying “well, I haven’t raped anyone so this isn’t MY fault”. Or, you know, read the comments & then go back and read Bon’s piece.

– UPDATED: This piece by Beth Lyons for addresses a lot of the same issues I have with calling this & similar cases ‘bullying’.


I’ll allow comments for now, although I’m nervous because of what happened on my friend Carol’s blog after she wrote a post about a high-profile rape / suicide case in her backyard, out on the west coast. Please keep your discussion civil. If you found this page by Googling “Rehtaeh Parsons” and you have the impulse to say anything assholish about what happened to her, don’t waste your time. Comments are moderated on this blog – always have been – and anything that I deem trolling or abusive will be deleted.



  1. I don’t know what to say.

    • What can we say? I honestly just spilled all of this out because I had to get it out of my head – I can’t stop thinking about it.

  2. I’ve read it all, and I feel sick, and full up, and paralyzed, and terrified, and like I’ve been horribly naive. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to do.

    • I hear you on the ‘naive’ part. I feel a thousand years old today.

  3. Thank you for writing this – I too have been obsessing about all the different aspects and voices around this issue. ( I have gotten stuck on the parents of those boys – what did they know and when, and how does any adult get away with allowing a group of underaged kids to be drinking in their house and not sending them home? or not calling their parents?) and have been ranting in my own house about it all.

    Thank you for the link to bon’s piece – which I would not have found on my own.

    As a daughter of a feminist mother, It is exhausting to be reminded that many of the thoughts and battles about gender imbalance, and sexism that I had first taken up almost 40 years ago – my mother brought me along to year of the woman demos on parliatment hill way back in 1975 – are still relevant. I don’t just feel old. I am old.

    • I hear you about the parents who were ‘hosting’ the party. How have they not been charged? Or at least questioned? What kind of adult allows this to go on their home? I don’t even like letting other people’s kids eat junk food when they’re at my house, for heaven’s sake.

  4. i feel a thousand years old today, too. just wanted to say, until you mentioned it, i hadn’t thought consciously about the way the Hfx reporter broke the story: but you’re right. and i think it’s made a difference – small but visible, backed up by her family’s eloquence – in making it harder for the slutshaming comments and the horror to break out. it’s there…we all reported the FB page. but not as loudly as i’ve almost come to expect.

    i think the media have a bigger role in this discourse than we lay at their feet. we should change that.

    • Well, I’m still horrified at how Candy Crowley – a journalist I respected, not so very long ago – and others at CNN framed the discussion around the Steubenville rapists. And last year, there was a case here in Halifax where two girls – aged 12 and 13 – had sex in the back of a van with two men aged 19. The men were later charged with statutory rape. The way the media handled it was, if not out-and-out offensive, at least troubling. I thought Selena Ross’ approach to Rehtaeh’s case was much more balanced.

  5. You’re right. It’s NOT bullying. If it were in the workplace, it would be sexual harassment. Part of me wants to post about this child… and the part of me who posted for Amanda Todd and Steubenville is very tired of arguing and only getting morons in response. Did you see my Facebook troll after Steubenville?

    • I didn’t. My Facebook only shows me about 10% of actual status updates anymore and the rest is ads. *sigh* So far, I haven’t had to delete any comments here, which makes me grateful.

      • Ad block, man. I never see fb ads! Hope your troll free luck holds.

  6. I’ve only read a little. I’m in the States so I am pretty disgusted by it all lately. As the mom of two girls I am horrified that we are still “blaming the victim” of sexual assault in 2013. And for the life of me I do not understand how these boys can take pictures of themselves raping an unconscious girl and have prosecutors say they don’t have evidence.

  7. […] haven’t already said about Amanda Todd, or the Steubenville rape case? What could I say that my fellow bloggers already […]

  8. I’m struggling to understand how this hasn’t even made the news in the UK – I only heard about it from a Canadian blogger I’ve been following for ages. Utterly horrendous.

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