Prevent circumstances that led to daughter’s death, say parents of raped teen

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 4:32am

Family and friends of a Canadian teen who hanged herself after she was allegedly raped and bullied for months were urged at her funeral on Saturday to celebrate her life and use her story to draw attention to the circumstances that contributed to her death.

More than 100 people filled St Mark's Anglican Church in the capital of Nova Scotia to pay their last respects to 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, whose family said she was photographed while being sexually assaulted in 2011 by four boys and bullied after the photo went viral online.

The teen's death last Sunday has been compared with two other episodes recently in the news - the death of a 15-year-old California girl who took her own life after she was allegedly sexually abused and an explicit photo of the assault circulated online among her classmates, and the conviction in Ohio of two high school football players for raping a drunk 16-year-old girl, an incident recorded on mobile phones and gossiped about online.

Reverend John Morrell noted in his eulogy that social media contributed to Rehtaeh's depression and death, but said it also allowed her family to share her tragic story around the world.

"It is a time of celebration and thanksgiving of her short life among us," said Morrell.

"However, given the worldwide attention to the events leading up to this tragedy, it is appropriate to focus on what happens tomorrow, and the day after, and weeks and years to come.

"How can our society provide a safe haven for young girls? Why do young men feel that young girls are but objects for their sexual fantasies? Why do teenagers avoid seeking help when they are depressed and suicidal?"