Cries for justice for Rehtaeh

Rehtaeh Parsons

THERE IS anguish and anger across the province of Nova Scotia following the death by suicide of teenager Rehtaeh Parsons on April 7. The 17-year old hanged herself in the family home on April 4. Three days later, her parents consented to removing her from life support.

Rehtaeh Parsons' death was provoked by institutional failure to deal with an alleged gang sexual assault she suffered in November 2011 at the hands of four teenage boys who were schoolmates at Cole Harbour District High School, in the Halifax region. The teens had been drinking alcohol in the parental home of one of the boys.

Adding to Parson's humiliation, and a criminal act in its own right, was the posting of a photo of the assault to social media several days later by one of the alleged assailants. The photo played a crucial role in the later suicide because it provoked an endless string of taunts and threats against Parsons, sometimes by former schoolmates, often times by strangers.

Concern over her story quickly became international because the institutional sexism that it revealed is a feature of capitalist society worldwide. Women are increasingly rising up against it--from India and foreign-occupied Afghanistan to the United States. Police in California recently arrested three young men in connection to the suicide of Audrie Pott in September 2012. She, too, suffered a gang sexual assault.