Rehtaeh Parsons. via Facebook.
Christie Blatchford, a columnist over at the National Post with a reputation for being a bit of a troll, wrote a horribly misdirected response to the Rehtaeh Parsons case that literally could not have been more tasteless. The article—which echoes the local postering campaign meant to “Support” the boys who were accused of raping Rehtaeh that were put up all around the neighbourhood where the Parsons family lives—insists that there is another side to the story. Blatchford essentially takes the RCMP’s inability to prosecute anyone in connection to this case as an open lane to say that the alleged rape was simply just consensual sex. It also does not even remotely acknowledge the reality that Rehtaeh was photographed during the alleged assault—and that photograph was spread around her school for two years before she finally killed herself. Apparently that type of illicit child pornography, which is now the focus of brand new legislation, and the resulting harassment, is irrelevant to someone like Blatchford.
To illustrate how insane this article is, allow me to bring out a few points from Christie’s upsettingly dumb column to illuminate the dangerous breakdown in logic Christie has suffered in the public eye. Here she goes, trying to explain that the police didn’t have sufficient evidence to make an arrest:
What [the police] had was a complainant whose evidence was all over the map, independent evidence that supported the notion that any sex was consensual, and no evidence that Rehtaeh was so drunk that she couldn’t consent: The case was a mess.
Christie is saying that there is zero evidence that Rehtaeh was too drunk to consent. It doesn’t take a psychological mastermind to conclude that a 15-year-old girl would need to be intoxicated to have sex with three other guys at a house party—but you don’t even need to make that type of assumption to know that this statement is victim-blaming lunacy. Christie does it herself.
The notorious cell phone picture, first sent by one of the alleged assailants and re-circulated thereafter, shows virtually nothing that would stand up in court.
The photo is of a male naked from the waist down, giving a thumbs-up sign, pressing into the bare behind of another person who is leaning out a window…
When she leaned out the window to be sick, she told police, one of them assaulted her.
She remembered almost nothing else.
So apparently a 15-year-old girl vomiting out of a window, who can remember very little of her evening, is also sober enough to consent to group sex with three guys at a house party. Blatchford seems to think, because Rehtaeh’s face is hidden from the frame—since she was bent over and vomiting out of an open window—that this photo is useless evidence. It’s a frustrating and maddeningly dumb spin on a girl who was taken advantage of. It’s this kind of victim blaming in the mainstream media that is validating a rape culture, and these situations need to be addressed in a more honest and intelligent way.
The National Post in general seems to have a lack of sympathy for rape victims like Rehtaeh. It wasn’t too long ago that Chris Selley took a “boys will be boys” defense to defend the alleged rapists who have not been arrested or tried—while taking a shot at Anonymous for trying to get involved. This was, of course, written before the RCMP reopened the case as an obvious response to Anonymous’s ability to not only find credible information—but cause enough outrage and public dismay to force the hand of law enforcement to make what is obviously just a symbolic gesture. The case has not been reopened. It’s on pause.
When the names of the alleged suspects are an open secret, all of the evidence is out there, and nothing has been done yet—it seems like the question I asked last week regarding whether or not this case will end up unresolved has now been answered.
While it’s all well and good that our governments are proceeding to look at the problem of teens spreading obscene photos of each other—it’s even become the new banner cause for Stephen Harper’s wife Laureen who has launched a brand new cyberbullying help site that refers to exploitation as “sexting”—there is still the frustrating inability to prosecute any of the boys who drove Rehtaeh to suicide. And, of course, as we saw with Amanda Todd, this kind of ineffectiveness appears to be the status quo in Canada when a teenage girl takes her own life after being sexually assaulted. What kind of message are we sending here? Why is it so difficult to understand that when a girl is vomiting out of her window while multiple guys have sex with her, after which she is unable to dress herself, that she was too drunk to consent? And when a photo of that nauseatingly predatory act circulates around her school for two years—how was there not enough evidence to connect the dots and launch a proper investigation? It’s a scary precedent for young Canadian girls, and the only hope now is that people like Christie Blatchford do not have the last word on this case. She might be correct in saying that there will “never be a case against the alleged rapists”—but that doesn’t mean we should accept it.
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