A few days after Rehtaeh Parsons’ mother turned off the hospital life support systems and allowed her daughter to die, computer activists claiming to be affiliated with the hacker group Anonymous are threatening to reveal the identities of Parsons’ alleged rapists.
It’s the latest twist in a heartbreaking case that Canadian authorities ruled was not a crime. Rehtaeh, who was 17, hanged herself on April 4 and died a few days later. Her mother, Leah, told Canada’s National Post that her daughter was desperate after a boy sexually assaulted her in 2011 and he and three other boys published a photograph of the attack. She says Rehtaeh was bullied and harassed afterwards.
Her father, Glen Canning, writes that although the explicit photo appeared online and was shared, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, determined there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue charges in the case. Canning was astounded. “Why was this treated like a minor incident of bullying rather than a rape? Isn’t the production and distribution of child porn a crime in this country? Numerous people were emailed that photo. The police have that information (or at least they told us they did). When someone claims they were raped is it normal to wait months before talking to the accused?”
That’s what the Anonymous activists want to know. Salon and Huffington Post both point to a site purporting to be a statement from the activists who claim they know the identities of two of the alleged attackers and that they’re going after two more alleged attackers. They demand that Nova Scotia provincial justice minister Ross Landy take immediate legal action against the four or they’ll release the names. They also say they’ll hold Landy accountable for his failure to act.
The Halifax RCMP responded to that warning with a statement that such threats are considered criminal. Officials from the office met Thursday with Leah Parsons, who also wants justice — but not mob action. “I want the justice system to go after those boys for sending those pictures, she was 15 years old,” Leah Parsons told the Associated Press. “I don’t want people to go after those boys. People are threatening to do that.”
Justice minister Landy has now ordered a new review of the case, says the CBC. He’s also thinking about preparing new laws that might address image sharing and changing technology.
The case appears to draw parallels with a controversial rape case involving teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio. Two teenage boys were convicted last month of raping a 16-year-old girl. The case drew international attention after images they took of the inebriated victim were posted online. Outraged people then used social media to further distribute the images, in an attempt to pressure authorities to bring charges in the case. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will convene a grand jury next week to review whether more charges should be filed in the matter.
In the meantime, there’s word that Anonymous activists will hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the Halifax police station on Sunday, according the Truro Daily News. Protesters will demand justice for Rehteah.