Anonymous Takes Up Parsons Suicide

12 Apr

Amanda Todd's You Tube videoThe Steubenville rape case was not a unique case, tragically.

This week, the network of hackers who identify themselves as belonging to the Anonymous collective said it had uncovered the names of the teenagers believed involved in the rape of the high school student, Rehtaeh Parsons, and urged the authorities to pursue the case. No one was ever charged in the sexual assault of Ms. Parsons, who hanged herself last week and was taken off life support on Sunday after what her family described as years of struggle with depression and anger.

The case has revived scrutiny of the case of Ms. Parsons, who was 17, that has gained momentum online with calls for the authorities to act. Some drew comparisons to the Steubenville rape in Ohio in the United States, because a cellphone photograph that was distributed among students at Ms. Parsons’s school apparently shows the sexual assault taking place.

In a video and using #opjustice4rehtaeh, Anonymous solicited Twitter users to send e-mails divulging information and said that it had names of two of the “alleged rapists” but would soon have all four.

And, there’s at least a third case of bullying, the second in Canada.

Amanda Todd’s death in October under similar circumstances had sparked a national debate on what is appropriate online behavior, and calls for criminalizing cyber-bullying.

In a YouTube video watched by millions worldwide, Todd said she “cried every night” after a photo of her breasts, flashed in an online video chat with a stranger a few years earlier, was distributed in her community in Canada’s westernmost British Columbia province. “I have nobody. I need someone.”

After several failed suicide attempts involving cutting herself and drinking bleach and then posting the YouTube video describing her sadness, Todd finally killed herself on October 10.

Her death led to discussions at schools, in the media, in political circles and at kitchen tables nationwide about how to keep youths with a lot of technical knowledge but no life experience — a combination that makes it hard for them to assess risk and imagine future consequences — safe online.

Obviously, not enough discussion – or action. Canada’s attorneys and the RCMP claim that there was “insufficient evidence” for a “realistic” prosecution of Parsons’ assailants.

Police investigated the alleged sexual assault, which took place at a party in Cole Harbour where teenagers were drinking heavily, and in consultation with the Crown, decided there was “insufficient evidence” to lay charges.

“An investigation was completed and in consultation with the Crown there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Scott MacRae told the National Post.

Chris Hansen, director of communications for the prosecution service, said Crown attorneys reviewed the evidence of sexual assault and distribution of child pornography, in relation to a photograph of the incident.

“They did a thorough assessment of the evidence and determined that based on the evidence there was no realistic prospect of conviction,” he told the Post.

It’s better to focus attention and resources on reforming laws, so that victims of sexual assault and cyber bullying do not resort to suicide. Focusing solely on the bullies in Parsons’ case will only encourage misogynists opposed to legal reform on a broader slate of issues related to gender equality, to claim that this is only mob vengeance.

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