A 17-year-old girl died on Sunday after attempting suicide just days earlier; her mother said that she could not take anymore bullying and torture at the hands of her peers. Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia had been gang-raped when she was just 15 and her rapists took pictures and shared them with friends.
In 2010, Parsons went to a small party and reportedly began drinking. The next morning, she could not remember very much that had happened at the party except for getting sick. Yet it all came rushing back when she saw pictures of herself with a man.
"That picture began to circulate in her school and community three days later," Parsons' mother Leah told CBC News. "She walked into the school and everyone started calling her a slut."
Upon seeing the photo, Rehtaeh broke down and told her mother what she could remember, which was that she had been raped by four men. After investigating the case for over a year, police told the Parsons that there was not enough evidence to charge the young men and deemed it a "he said, she said" case.
"We have to deal in facts and not rumors," RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae told CBC. "We may not be able to go down certain roads because of the tragic circumstance. I feel like the door is always open for people to talk to a police agency."
Yet many rape victims need time to recover before they are able to tell anyone- let alone police- what happened to them. In Parsons' case, the story was compounded by the influence of alcohol and extreme bullying.
"She was never left alone," Leah explained. "Her friends turned against her; people harassed her; boys she didn't know started texting her and Facebooking, asking her to have sex with them since she had had sex with their friends. It just never stopped," she said.
Last month, Rehtaeh was voluntarily admitted to a hospital because she was having suicidal thoughts. Then, on Thursday, she attempted to kill herself and was put on life support. Her family made the heart-wrenching decision to take her off life support on Sunday and she passed away.
Since going public with Rehtaeh's story, Leah has had an enormous response of support and cries for justice for her late daughter. A Facebook memorial page has over 12,000 followers, and an online petition demanding an inquiry into Rehtaeh's case and the justice department has received over 2,000 signatures.
"This situation is tragic. I am deeply saddened– as I think are all Nova Scotians– by the death of this young woman," Justice Minister Ross Landry said in a statement. "It's important that Nova Scotians have faith in the justice system and I am committed to exploring the mechanisms that exist to review the actions of all relevant authorities."
"I think she would have had some satisfaction that it was real [if there were charges] because no one believed her," Leah said. "I think kids today listen to a story and if that's the most sensational story to go with, they jump on that and they don't care how it hurts other people."
"When Rehtaeh was born, I dedicated everything to her and promised her the world. Others in this world took that away from her," she added.
Watch Leah speak about her daughter here: