Rehtaeh Parsons Case: Two Charged With Child Pornography, But No Sexual Assault Charges

Rehtaeh Parsons took her life after an alleged rape in 2011 led to months of relentless bullying, but police in Canada say her family may never see justice for the assault.

On Thursday two Halifax teens were charged with child pornography distribution after they allegedly spread photos of the assault on Parsons. The two 18-year-olds, who had their identities withheld, are due in youth court next week to face the charges.

While police said the arrests will help bring some measure of justice to the Rehtaeh Parsons case, they acknowledged the conclusion would not be satisfying to everyone.

“I can tell you that we hope that today’s arrests help the entire community to heal,” RCMP Chief-Supt. Roland said in a press conference. “A young girl has died in what is a tragic set of circumstances. We all need to reflect on how we as a community can come together in Rehtaeh’s memory and see what we can do to work together to support our youth.”

Rehtaeh Parsons tried to kill herself in April, dying days later in the hospital. Her family said the alleged rape and the cyberbullying that followed it sent the 17-year-old into a deep depression.

But while the child pornoraphy charges can bring some measure of justice, police say they may not have enough evidence to bring charges in the alleged rape.

“We, as police officers, cannot act on innuendo or speculation,” Blais said. “We do not cultivate facts. We verify them.”

The case was complicated by the fact that Rehtaeh Parsons missed school time after the incident, hindering an investigation.

But family members complained that police did not seem interested in the case until Rehtaeh was already dead.

“I feel that the investigation wasn’t handled properly from the beginning and I’ve never seen the file, so I don’t really know why or how that happened,” her mother, Leah Parsons, said Thursday. “I’m just glad that it was reopened.”

While Rehtaeh Parsons may never see a full measure of justice, her death can help others facing bullying. Lawmakers in Nova Scotia introduced a law allowing victims of cyberbullying to seek protection orders on the perpetrators or sue them or their families.