Yesterday wasn’t easy. We went to Rehtaeh’s grave and left her some flowers and a couple small gifts. She would have turned 18. Last night we lit some candles on a small cake and wished her a Happy Birthday. We also had a candle burning in the window for her and her memory.
Happy Birthday peanut. I love and miss you ~ Dad
On Sunday night some very good friends held a candle light vigil for Rehtaeh and it was very emotional. About 50 people showed up in the cold to show their support. The ceremony was started with some song for Rehtaeh and other women who have been victims of sexual or physical violence from the All Nations Drummers. Drummer Dorene Bernard called Rehtaeh “a warrior.”
Fred Barnes Jr. and his wife Vanessa performed their song Social Curse. The song was written for Rehtaeh and it was beautiful.
Rehtaeh’s friends also spoke about their love for her and what her loss has meant to them. Her close friend Bryony recalled the last conversation she had with Rae and that “After all the words and conversations spent with her, I look back every day and remember and thank God the last words we exchanged were, ‘I love you.’” Another friend, Anneke said “Her strength gave me the courage to move forward and overcome my own obstacles and struggles. I am now on a much better path in life and on my way to becoming a social worker. I want to make a difference in the lives of youth like myself and Rehtaeh.”
I’ve been a fan of HRM Poet Laureate El Jones since I saw her perform at the 25th Reunion of Africville. To have her speak at Rehtaeh’s vigil was very meaningful and her words were as powerful as always. She spoke about rape culture in two strong performances and spoke of an attack on a friend by three “well-dressed men” who plied the young woman with alcohol before raping her and dumping her naked and unconscious in a stranger’s empty swimming pool.
“If there’s ever any doubt in their minds, I guess they tell themselves it’s fine, we had her consent, I mean we were all drunk, but she knew what we meant,” Jones recited, “It’s not like we’re bad guys, so of course, it wasn’t rape.”
Rape culture is familiar to me now. I read it all the time in comments below articles about Rehtaeh. “Why was she drinking… why was she at a party… why does she have tattoos… why did her parents let her go out at night?” Never comments about the kind of animals who would rape a defenceless 15 year old girl then brag about it on text messages accompanied by a photo. That sickening culture has lead us to where we are today – Crown Attorney’s dismissing rape cases based on the actions of victims rather than perpetrators.
I have evidence now that the father or a very close friend of one of the accused has stated Rehtaeh didn’t give consent. Powerful evidence – if only we had someone to give it too. The Crown’s mind is made up anyway – Rehtaeh isn’t the perfect victim. She didn’t scream and fight, she didn’t flee in terror, she wasn’t bloody and beaten. She was just unconscious and unconscious just isn’t good enough in court – even with numerous confessions and photographic proof she was raped.
Yesterday we celebrated Rehtaeh’s birthday. Today, I am
angry emotional again.
“Justice isn’t going to come for Rehtaeh in the court system, but it is going to come from … all of you great people who support change in our communities to help our children. We wouldn’t have gotten through these eight months without everyone who was there to support us. It’s been the most difficult, but it’s also been very gratifying to see all the love and support that we see from everybody.”
~ Leah Parsons