A Nova Scotia man, who flashed a thumbs-up in a photo as he penetrated a vomiting Rehtaeh Parsons, then 15 years old, pleaded guilty yesterday to a single charge of distributing the photo.
He's not facing sexual assault charges, despite admitting in court yesterday in an agreed upon statement of facts that the photo shows him "having sex" with Parsons. She later told police she was raped.
He texted the explicit photo to two people, and it spread quickly. Parsons' friends and peers harassed and slut-shamed her because of it. Struggling with depression, she attempted suicide. Her parents took her off life support three days later. She was 17.
Until recently, a publication ban prevented VICE Canada from releasing Parsons' name under Canada's criminal code. Most other Canadian media were doing the same, although Halifax's Chronicle Herald went ahead and published her name before the ban was revoked. The names of the two men involved are still covered under the ban because they were minors when the incident occurred.
Parsons' father and mother attended yesterday's hearing wearing shirts with her name on them. Following the hearing, her father told media:
"When you hear the details of the photo described, they can go on about Rehtaeh didn't give consent for this photo being taken, yet for some reason she was able to give consent for sex? And that to me is just—no, you can't, she was vomiting out a window, those are details of the case, those are facts of the case, that had been in the courtroom today, and someone in that state of mind, you can just read any brief reading of the Criminal Code of Canada, they're incapacitated, they are not able to be in a position to give consent. Rehtaeh was not in a position to give consent."
She had been drinking heavily, and was vomiting in the photo while the man penetrated her, so why weren't sexual assault charges laid? We're still waiting for a full review of the case, but the best answer we have right now is that the prosecutor decided there wasn't enough evidence for a conviction, and police neglected to lay charges. We'll see if they did their due diligence when that review comes out.
"Originally they told us it was child pornography, and they were going to lay charges for sexual assault and child pornography," her mother said.
"It took away her very essence of who she was," her mother said of the photo. "She was never the same after that. Once that photo appeared, she was never the same again."
It's hard to imagine the guy in the photo will face jail time for texting it to two people. Another man who pleaded guilty to taking the explicit photo that ruined Parsons' life walked free on Nov. 14. Since he was underage at the time, the judge said he was less blameworthy than an adult, and because he pleaded guilty, the judge said he had taken responsibility for his actions. He walked away with a conditional discharge and an order to apologize to her parents, provide a DNA sample and take a sexual harassment course.
The man in the photo was also underage at the time. Yesterday he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty—likely hoping for similar results. He'll be sentenced on January 15.
Noticeably absent yesterday were mask-wearing sign-waving members of Anonymous, who showed up at the sentencing of the other young man, demanding justice for the girl in the photo.
"I'm convinced 100 percent there's a system here that needs to be looked at and needs to be fixed," her father said. "And all we can do now is move ahead, and hopefully move ahead and have something positive come out of our daughter's death. It's not going to help her obviously, but there are a lot of other people out there coming out with similar stories to [our daughter] and it's just wrong that this is allowed to happen. We've got a problem and we need to fix it, and if this case can be somewhat of a turning point, then so be it. I hope it can be."