"There was no justice": No jail time for man who photographed Rehtaeh Parsons' alleged gang rape

Parsons committed suicide after photo of her alleged assault went viral. The man who took it faced no consequences

Published November 14, 2014 4:38PM (EST)

Rehtaeh Parsons
Rehtaeh Parsons

A Canadian man who pleaded guilty to manufacturing child pornography after he took a photo of an alleged gang rape will see no jail time, no probation and receive no counseling as a result of the crime. The judge called the image showing a teenager being penetrated from behind during an alleged sexual assault a “stark example of the objectification of girls and women,” but said the man, who is now 20 but was 17 at the time, had "lived with what he did for three years."

Rehtaeh Parsons was allegedly gang raped by four of her high school classmates in 2011, when she was just 15 years old. According to her parents, Parsons then suffered more than a year of harassment at school after a photo of the incident was circulated online. She changed schools, but the harassment persisted. She was hospitalized, but remained despondent. In April 2013, Parsons killed herself.

The system failed Parsons from the start. After Parsons, joined by her mother, went to the police to report the alleged rape, they were soon told that there was insufficient evidence to file charges. And despite it being illegal in Canada to circulate such an image of a minor, there were initially no child pornography charges filed, either. It was only after Parsons commit suicide and public pressure mounted that two of the men involved were charged with the manufacturing of child pornography. (The second man, now 19, is still awaiting trial.)

Parsons' mother, Leah, had this to say about the outcome of the trial:

I honestly will never know if what the judge said will impact the male or not but we can only pray something did. The judge was constrained in what he was able to do. When I ask myself what would justice look like for me to make this right? There is nothing that will bring my daughter back. I cant go back in time so what is justice? A jail cell? What would jail do to help the situation?

We need to pray for that male that he becomes the type of person the judge hoped he would become. One that values women and feels remorse, one that moves on in his life to reflect his lessons. We dont need more angry males out there for another female to cross paths with and be assaulted. We need less.

There was no justice in the courtroom as there rarely is for youth crimes but that does not mean we can not rise up to make justice in our own communities by making it a safe place for victims of sexualized violence.

A statement released last year by Parson's father, Glen Canning, strikes an equally anguished tone of anger with the system that failed his daughter and the evasiveness of justice:

Rehtaeh Parsons thought the worst outcome for her case would be no charges against the men who raped her but we all know better. The worst thing that could happen would be charges. That they would be found guilty, and that Rehtaeh would sit on a court bench and listen in utter disbelief as they were given parole, or a suspended sentence, or community service. All for completely destroying her life while they laughed.

Why is it they didn’t just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation.

And this is the message delivered once again in the entire ordeal of Rehtaeh Parsons' case. In the child pornography charges that only came after the public shamed the police. The rape charges that never came at all. The absence of any meaningful consequences or rehabilitation for the man who victimized her for sport.

Parsons' father wrote what he did, that boys and men know they can get away with victimizing women, because he knows it's an education they receive every day. In headline after headline about the rapes that are reported but never investigated, the school administrators who ignore sexual assault under their own noses, the abusers who return to the field, the conference room, the police force or the whatever perch of polite society without having faced a single consequence for assaulting and violating women.

The message to women and girls is equally clear, that justice is a luxury good. Accountability, too. It's an education they receive every day.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Child Pornography Rape Rehtaeh Parsons Sexual Assault Sexual Violence Violence Against Women