Remembering Rehtaeh a year later

Haley Ryan
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Mother happy daughter's story is helping others


A tattoo on Leah Parsons’ shoulder is partially covered by her shirt until she lifts the sleeve, revealing a portrait of her daughter Rehtaeh in black ink alongside small crows.

Parsons said she got the tattoo last May to honour her daughter, who had gotten one of a feather with crows flying out of it “like a re-birth” on her 16th birthday.

“It was kind of a way for her to take back her body,” Parsons said.

It’s been a year since Rehtaeh died on April 7, a few days after attempting to take her own life, which her mother says was due to months of bullying after a photo of her alleged rape was spread around school.

A walk in her memory is planned for Saturday afternoon, which Parsons said has the double importance of bringing awareness to rape culture.

“It’s a world-wide thing,” Parsons said.  “She resonates with other people because they know how easily it could be their child.”

Parsons especially hopes teenagers will come and listen to the messages of respect, and not victimizing others.

“Don’t stand around and do nothing. You’ve got to speak up. If you’re saying something negative about a female … you’ve got to make it socially unacceptable, that it’s not cool.”

She resonates with other people because they know how easily it could be their child Leah Parsons

Rehtaeh’s story led to multiple reviews and new legislation around sharing intimate photos. Parsons said the important thing is she brought up issues “that needed to be talked about.”

Parsons says she finds strength in the messages pouring from people around the world about how Rehtaeh changed their lives.

One woman said a tattoo of Rehtaeh on her wrist is a reminder to stop harming herself. Many have said she gave them strength to talk about their own rape.

“It’s what keeps me going,” Parsons said.  “It’s very therapeutic to receive those types of messages, and it just tells me she mattered and she matters to people.”

Parsons said speaking out about her daughter’s story is “not going to change anytime soon” but she does take time to be alone and process her feelings.

“I’m just trying to honour what comes up for me … I listen to what I need,” Parsons said quietly.

The walk for Rehtaeh starts at 1 p.m. Saturday in the rear parking lot of Cole Harbour Place, and ends at the Woodlawn United Church hall. A discussion follows from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

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