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 feministing.com 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 shamelessmag.com 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.