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Rehtaeh Parsons was 17 years old when she committed suicide after intimate images of her were distributed on social media, which led to online bullying and harassment. Her death prompted her mother, Leah Parsons, to start a foundation to stop all forms of cyber bullying.
LIVERPOOL, N.S. - Leah Parsons knows just how Amy Whynot feels as she fights the cyberbullying that plagues her 15-year-old son every day. She just hopes Whynot’s story will not end the way her daughter’s did.
Rehtaeh Parsons committed suicide at the age of 17 in 2013. Her family believes her death was caused by her rape by four boys and the release of intimate images that resulted in online bullying and harassment.
That’s exactly what happened to Rehtaeh, she became a target.
Parsons says she’s viewed all of the messages sent to Whynot’s son, some urging him to kill himself.
“It’s pretty serious stuff what they’re doing to that young boy,” she said in an interview with The Advance.
“The school and the police have to act on this very quick because they’re dealing with a child’s mental health. And the school does have the authority to act and take those phones and figure out who is doing it, and punish those kids immediately, and not wait. That’s the problem, waiting.”
Parsons says the messages she has seen are pretty horrible, and kids have to realize the impact cyberbullying has on others.
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“That’s why they have to come down hard on them and not wait. They really need the message that you cannot do this to another human being.”
Rehtaeh’s death led Nova Scotia to introduce cyberbullying legislation, but that legislation was struck down by the courts last year.
“That’s why it’s so important to make a new one right now. And that’s exactly why it’s so important to have that law in place so they can go in and say ‘this is cyber abuse’.”
Parsons says the case does remind her of Rehtaeh’s situation.
“This is what happens. It’s not bullying. It’s called becoming a target. Once someone becomes a target, it almost invites everyone else to see him as a target because he has no value. His value as a person goes down and he becomes a target, and that’s exactly what happened to Rehtaeh, she became a target.”
Parsons says she plans to reach out to Whynot personally.
“Because it’s social media, there is no school or out of school. Unfortunately, it takes the parent, who has to be the advocate and keep screaming out and saying, ‘I’m not going to tolerate this.’ Because this is school, and it is a school issue.”
Parsons says public exposure will also put pressure on the authorities to take action.
“I think it was the right thing for her to do was to post it. This is a big serious issue the things that they’re saying to him.”
She says the province is working on a new cyberbullying law and she hopes it will be in place by this fall.