If you don’t spend much time watching Canadian news or following Anonymous on Twitter… if you’ve been reading our blog and still aren’t even sure how to pronounce Rehtaeh (it’s re-tay-uh, for the record) let alone know who she was and what her name represents… now is the time to tune in.
Who is Rehtaeh Parsons?
In November of 2011, a 15 year old student at the Cole Harbour District High School in Nova Scotia, Canada went to a party with a friend. The events that followed changed her life forever, and are shaping the way that the world thinks about justice.
Rehtaeh reported that she had been raped by four young men from her school that night, while she was semi-conscious, intoxicated to the point of vomiting. At least one photo was taken and according to Rehtaeh’s mother, the photo was distributed widely among her peers.
Rehtaeh reported the assault to police, but they were unable to uncover enough evidence for the prosecutor to lay charges against the alleged rapists. In the aftermath of the investigation, Rehtaeh suffered deeply at the hands of her peers, receiving a barrage of harassing texts and online messages.
On April 4th of 2013, after enduring 17 months of online bullying, personal harassment and the indifference of the RCMP and other adults in her community, Rehtaeh attempted suicide by hanging in her family home. She was hospitalized, but died on April 7th when her family made the decision to remove her from life support systems.
Anonymous Steps In: #OpJustice4Rehtaeh
On April 10th, as the internet cried out in protest of the terrible injustices done to Rehtaeh and her family, pundit and blogger Warren Kinsella posted a call out to Anonymous, asking them to step in on the case.
Within a few hours of the loose-knit group of anti-bullying activists coming together online, they had uncovered a confession from one of the alleged rapists. It didn’t take much longer to arrive at the names of all four accused and start building a case against them.
Anonymous Canada originally posed the ultimatum to the RCMP: do your job, or we will do it for you. With new evidence in the hands of the police, the case was reopened on April 12. Hours later the announcement came that an investigation would help uncover what went wrong within the investigation so many months ago.
For now, at the request of Rehtaeh’s mother, Anonymous and their handful of media contacts are holding the four names a secret, though not a very well kept one. Family members of the accused have been rallying their support online, ruining any attempts Anonymous had made to maintain confidentiality.
Where Do We Stand?
The story continues to unfold. Members of Anonymous are not entirely in consensus about how to proceed as we wait for some sign of movement within police ranks. Journalists are itching to talk about the attitudes and actions of the adults in this case, but unable to do so without fear of incriminating their minor children.
Members of the Cole Harbour community continue to spread their “Support for the Boys” message, moving to plastering posters when their attempts at online activism threatened to expose the young men they are trying to protect. The #OpJustice4Rehtaeh hash tag on Twitter shows an evolving conversation between local and global participants in this story, and Obscene Works will have all the details here as they unfold.
More on our involvement with Anonymous Canada and the details of the case that we can discuss in the coming days.