Myths, Misconceptions, and Rape Culture

by Glen Canning

A concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape. Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape.

Below is a list of questions, myths, and misconceptions regarding Rehtaeh’s case and circumstances. We have handed Murray Segal a separate set of questions for him to ask the police. When his review is complete hopefully those will be answered.

If you have a question you would like me to address please ask. I will gladly add them to this list and post an update.

Troll Posts (click the images to bring up a gallery)

There’s an independent witness who claimed the sex was consensual:

In a National Post article by Christie Blatchford a lot is made of an independent witness being present on the night Rehtaeh claims she was raped. Blatchford wrote:

It was a dog’s breakfast of a file – with the singular feature, almost unheard of in a sexual assault complaint, of an independent witness – that led police and prosecutors to conclude they couldn’t charge anyone in the Rehtaeh Parsons case.

In a 28 December 2013 Chronicle Herald article reporter Selena Ross, who actually interviewed the witness, wrote:

A girl referred to as a witness was present for part of the night, and was friends with the boys, having dated at least one of them. When the lead investigator came to her house around November 2011, she asked the girl if she believed Rehtaeh had consented. The girl said yes. But in a later interview with The Chronicle Herald, it was clear that the girl didn’t understand the legal definition of sexual assault, which can take place when someone is highly intoxicated and not resisting. Rehtaeh couldn’t have been raped, said the girl, because the mother who was home that night didn’t wake up. “If you’re getting raped by four people, or two people, or one person even, you’re going to be screaming, you’re going to be yelling, you’re going to be crying,” she said.

When the lead investigator questioned the girl did she check to see whether or not the witness understood the legal definition of consensual sex? Apparently not.

We have had this “witness” contact us and try to explain her actions that night. We are obviously upset with her because SHE LEFT Rehtaeh alone in the house. She doesn’t know what happened to Rehtaeh and she knows she doesn’t. Nor does she qualify as an “independent witness.”

It wasn’t rape because Rehtaeh stayed in the house the next morning:

Rehtaeh has always stated she remembers very little of the night she was raped.  The fact that she stayed fits her story – why would she wake up and flee if she didn’t remember what happened to her? If anything, the fact that she didn’t wake up and run proves she didn’t remember what happened (her story), not that she wasn’t raped.

Rehtaeh came from a troubled home:

Rehtaeh was surrounded by a very loving family. She was a straight A student (except for gym) and with the exemption of *one incident was never in trouble with the police. That doesn’t sound like a troubled youth but people need to fit her into a category and it’s the easiest one for a rape victim.

Girls who have loving parents are raped the same as girls from “troubled homes” get raped. The home life or upbringing of a girl has nothing to do with being raped – the home life and upbringing of rapists does.

*One night she was out with some friends and they rolled a tire across a parking lot. The tire kept going and ended up in the street and was hit by a passing van. This was witnessed by a police officer. Rehtaeh apologized to the van owners. This is the only time she ever had an issue with law enforcement.

The child porn charges are a result of Rehtaeh’s parents political influence and/or public pressure:

If we had that kind of influence the charges would be for rape, not child porn.

“Nothing could be more biased than grieving parents, so their campaign to bend the law to the emotions of society is sickening:”

Similar to the above point.  If we had a campaign to bend the law what law have we bent? We are not trying to bend any law, only understand why the laws in place were not enforced properly. I think that’s a fair stance for us to take.

There is a text from Rehtaeh to one of the boys saying she is fine with everything:

Rehtaeh did send a text like that but it was sent early in the week following the rape. This was before they spread the story around and shared the digital image of her being assaulted and, as above, it fits her story that she can’t recall what happened or what they did to her. If she understood or knew what they did to her she would obviously have not been fine with it.

Rehtaeh’s statement to the police is all over the place:

Rehtaeh gave two statements to the police. The first one was to an officer who we were later informed was not allowed to take the statement. The second statement is the same as the first except for some details Rehtaeh remembered – namely saying “no” at one point during the assault. It was later so, obviously, she remembered something else worth telling.

The trauma suffered by  rape victims is similar to the trauma experienced by people in automobile accidents. They may not remember what happened for days or even weeks. It doesn’t mean there was no accident.

If the first officer was not allowed to take her statement we question why it was kept and why it was used against Rehtaeh. Is that normal for police investigations? Should sexual assault victims not contact the police if they later recall an important detail? Should they trust the police at all if this is how they investigate rape?

Rehtaeh didn’t kill herself because of the rape she killed herself because of what happened after:

This point has been made a few times on various web sites. The people making it don’t know Rehtaeh, what she went through, or what she was feeling in the last moments of her life.

Everything that happened to Rehtaeh from November 2011 on contributed to her life ending, including — and especially — being raped.

If there truly was a rape the police would have laid charges:

Once the child pornography charges have been dealt with and the review into the police investigation begins we are hopeful to find out exactly why the police never laid charges. Some of our questions include:

  • Why did officers not seize digital evidence when they knew it was being used to distribute an image of Rehtaeh?
  • Why did the lead officer not question any of the four boys who admitted openly to having sex with Rehtaeh while she was passed out?
  • Why did the police not make any effort to stop the spread of the photo?
  • There are many witnesses to the boys bragging about having sex with Rehtaeh after they hung her out an open window to be sick. Did the police take statements from any of them?
  • The photo hasn’t changed. Why weren’t the two involved with producing and distributing it not charged with  child porn when it could have mattered to Rehtaeh?

Nova Scotia has the distinction of being at the low end when it comes to charges and convictions for sexual assault in Canada. The work police offers and crown attorneys do in this province for victims of sexual assault is so bad 8-9/10 victims don’t even bother to call them. After seeing Rehtaeh’s case work it’s way to a miserable phone call following a year long investigation I can see why.

Recently a case was in the courts in Nova Scotia. The case is from 1970 and involves the rape of a 13 year old girl. The investigating officer, Earl Walker Hamilton, who is now 84 and retired since 1986, said he interviewed community members to learn about the complainant before taking a statement from her. He told the court he was trying to determine “whether she was promiscuous, whether she was intelligent and whether she was of chaste character.”

Not much has changed.

If she’s in the photo why isn’t she charged with child porn:

Yes, this point has actually been made. I haven’t got a clue how to answer something this ridiculous.

If they were all drinking shouldn’t she be charged with rape too:

See the answer to the previous point.

Glen Canning doesn’t know when to shut up:

Yes I do — I just haven’t got there yet. Some day perhaps but until that day arrives the people who are quite are part of the problem and I have no intention of adding my silence to rape culture.

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Christine McComas April 17, 2014 - 4:11 am

Glenn- fill me in. Who is Murray Segal?

You and your family always have my warmest regards — this is an issue we have yet to fight here.
At times I am thankful for less notariety, esp. when I see your troll stuff. Utterly ugly, cruel and ridiculous. Is there any way to fight back against that? You don’t deserve that insult to injury that parades as ‘free speech’.
Chris McComas- Maryland U.S.A. (mother of Grace)

Glen Canning April 17, 2014 - 5:39 am

Thank you Christine. Murray Segal is an attorney who will be conducting a review of the police investigation in Rehtaeh’s case.

I think, and I’ve learned, the best way to fight back is to ignore them or write something they can’t do anything about.

Think of you in my prayers. Stay strong.

Philip Rose April 17, 2014 - 7:31 am

I sympathise with you, I really do, but this case will eventually suffer from overexposure.
You mention contributory factors to your daughters’s death, but you don’t seem to mention marijuana smoking (a problem for people with mental health issues) nor the influence of her boyfriend, when you know that the suicide was in direct response to him dumping her.
You also speak of the eye-witness changing stories. Basically, the first story was given – that Rehteah consented. But, when questioned in a leading way next time, the story changed. This is common – kids will say what they believe the questioner wants to hear. But this doesn’t tie in with the story that Rehteah’s friend knew that there were possible problems, yet Rehteah refused to leave the party, and was reportedly in bed with a couple of guys.
The notorious photo is worthless. It shows nothing that can really be ascertained for sure.
If you decide that, because Rehteah was drunk, she couldn’t, by default, give consent, that’s fair enough. But bear in mind two things – she MAY have have given consent, but even if you still persist with the view that, when drunk, that doesn’t count, that means that that the guys involved can claim the same defence – too intoxicated to make a rational decision. And note – your daughter couldn’t even remember what happened.
As far as home life goes, you and your partner had split. We can only take your word for it that this had no effect.
You will also note that the experts want this case dropped. The case has been delayed and delayed, and has become one of ‘child porn’ which is is ridiculous. They’ve even had to ship in lawyers from another province because of advice to drop it all. You want stupid children, doing stupid things, to become criminals – purveyors of pornography – when really all they they were guilty of was teen idiocy. And where do you stop? Were ALL the people who passed on the photo pornographers? You will be aware that, in smoking weed and drinking, your daughter was also breaking laws on numerous occasions, yet I don’t see you campaigning about underage use of drink and drugs.
There’s a lot more to be said about this case, but don’t go down the path of basically letting it become a washing of dirty laundry in public. To want to do something about it alll is laudable – but why didn’t you act sooner? 17 months passed.

Glen Canning April 17, 2014 - 8:29 am

Thank you for your post Philip.

Rehtaeh self-medicated with marijuana and alcohol. The night she took her life she had a fight with her boyfriend but, like we mentioned to him, it was not the main reason she decided suicide. Rehtaeh was nothing like she used to be following the assault and the harassment that followed it. If she wasn’t raped she would be alive today. FYI – her autopsy revealed no drugs, alcohol, or marijuana in her system.

The eye-witness did not change her story she simply did not know what consent meant when she was questioned by police.

There is also a difference between refusing to leave and being unable to leave. Given her state and the fact that she was essentially passed out I doubt she could have made that choice. The boy who wrote a message to Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah, said they tried to get her dressed when the friend was there asking Rehtaeh to leave. That hardly constitutes a willing choice if she couldn’t even dress herself. He also mentions that when her friend left they carried her to another room and three of them had sex with her in there — in that state.

People who rape cannot, by law, use a drunk defence. Dangerous suggestion to think they should be.

The rape photo was good enough for the police and the new attorney. Good question though — why wasn’t it good enough before?

Me and Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah, were never married. We did not live together at all during Rehtaeh’s life so I’m not sure where you’re getting at suggesting the “split” “had no effect.” We dated for a few months and had a wonderful child together. That’s it.

The “experts” want the case dropped? That’s news to me. Where did you get that information? They brought in an outside lawyer for fresh eyes not because anyone gave “advice to drop it all.” That point on your part is simply not true.

“You want stupid children, doing stupid things, to become criminals – purveyors of pornography – when really all they they were guilty of was teen idiocy. And where do you stop? Were ALL the people who passed on the photo pornographers?”

I want the law enforced.

“You will be aware that, in smoking weed and drinking, your daughter was also breaking laws on numerous occasions, yet I don’t see you campaigning about underage use of drink and drugs.”

I’m aware of that. You don’t see me campaigning about underage drinking and drugs because I have much bigger issues to deal with at the moment. Rape, suicide, mental health issues, police reviews, court cases, Government agencies, dealing with my own grief, etc. I will not ever campaign for what amounts to nothing more than victim blaming.

“There’s a lot more to be said about this case, but don’t go down the path of basically letting it become a washing of dirty laundry in public.”

Raping and terrorizing someone to death is hardly an issue that should be kept behind closed doors. Attitudes like that, like the victim is to blame or the one with dirty laundry, are disgusting. This case has had a ton of exposure and I believe once the review into the actions of the police has been dealt with and the findings made public a lot people are going to be outraged. Think about this — does it sound normal to investigate a rape allegation for a whole year and not once question any of the accused, gather evidence, or talk to any potential witnesses at the school Rehtaeh attended? The photo was passed though out the school district for weeks along with the story that Rehtaeh was in the photo being sick out a window while a boy has intercourse with her. The police had knowledge of this and who was doing it yet did nothing.

And your response is to question her actions? And mine? I have a message from the kid in the photo with my daughter. His confession if you will. It’s why this case was reopened so it’s confirmed he wrote it. You have what?

Why didn’t we act sooner? We called the police as soon as we could, set Rehtaeh up with counselling, had her admitted to a mental health centre for five weeks, stayed in touch with the police, sent her away, helped her start new schools four times, held her as she cried, loved her, and wanted her back. Was that not enough? Please share what we could have done differently?

You have not seen the evidence I have seen, you have not spoken to a single police officer or attorney involved with this case, you know none of Rehtaeh friends or teachers or counsellors, yet you have a pretty strong opinion of this case. Why is that? Why have you mentioned nothing about the four people who raped Rehtaeh other than try to excuse their actions?

Although I am not certain of your motives I do appreciate you reaching out.

B C April 17, 2014 - 2:53 pm

Curious to see what Philip has to say now that someone has been charged in the Amanda Todd case. He has been crying foul on that poor girls grave for a long time.

Glen Canning April 17, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Philip — is this true?

“For the record, Philip Rose is the pedophile who screen capped Amanda Todd and he admitted to being one of the cappers mention, perso365. Not a stretch when you consider his fake name p rose and anagrammed spells perso. He stalked Amanda all over the net and you can see he is still obsessed with her. Since he cannot harm her anymore he turned his hate to her mother Carol, whom he is still stalking and has suggested she take a gun and shoot herself because it is her fault she died. It is his fault.”

Philip Rose aka perso365 is David Sanders

Shelley April 17, 2014 - 5:51 pm

Dear Philip Rose

I am a rape assault Survivor. Notice I didn’t say victim.

I read your comments and think that Glen Canning’s response addresses each of your ‘points’ clearly and effectively. But that’s not why I’m writing.

I’m writing because for every posting like yours there is a 100 or more rape assault Survivors who can actually speak to the experience and refute so much of what you say. But for ‘us’ it’s a difficult path – in cases like my own it reopens old wounds that I would prefer to leave scarred over.

40 years ago as a gullible 17 year old I was raped. It’s what we called for years, date rape. I had a couple of beers and at 95 lbs it didn’t take long to be intoxicated. A little heavy petting and the next thing I know, I’m in trouble. I’m not going to go into details – they aren’t necessary. The guy was intoxicated himself and outweighed me by some 35 lbs. The second time at 18 I was just talking with someone I thought was a friend when it happened. I wasn’t drunk or drinking. This male person forcibly raped me while pinning his arm across my neck. I still at that time weighed about 95 lbs – it’s a pretty helpless feeling when you try to fight and you are physically outmatched. I fought all the way.

I didn’t call the police, and I only told my roommate, a girlfriend. I sat in a tub for hours trying to cleanse myself. I hid the bruises with a long sleeved turtleneck shirt. I have never to this day really talked about it much and I’m 57 f*cking years old, a wife and mother of two girls.

So, let’s talk consent. Under Canadian law you cannot give consent if you are incapacitated due to alcohol, drugs, illness, etc. You have to be awake, conscious and sober enough to make a clear decision. You can only consent for yourself. If you indicate ‘no’, imply it through your words or actions, shake your head – understand this – that is saying no. That is not giving consent.

And when it comes to sexual intercourse you have the right to change your mind at any time and stop. So, there is no ‘by default’ – that’s just a term that indicates your lack of understanding of not only the law, but also any aspect of rape which is a physical assault and a criminal offense.

And I don’t think you sympathize with Reteah’s family – I think you want to give the impression that you do but you truly don’t understand and without that understanding you cannot have empathy.

Each and every person who shared that photo was guilty of a crime. It didn’t make them pornographers – it made them distributors of pornography. People do that every day as the internet has such a wealth of pornography that is easily shared so you may think that’s ok. But you know, pedophilia isn’t, nor is the sharing of a pornographic image of a minor. You can check out the Criminal Code on this, there is plenty of information but just for a starter:

Bill C-20 expanded the s.163.1(1) definition of “child pornography” provided in the Criminal Code to include written material, “the dominant characteristic of which is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act.”

That is considered child pornography and the making and distribution of this is Against*The*Law.

Each and every person who shunned, bullied, slut-shamed Reteah deserves to be questioned and called out for what they did, adults and minors alike. They quite simply are guilty of moral turpitude.

Finally, what really got me going was your use of the term ‘airing dirty laundry’. In that you have clearly indicated where you stand. As if this is something that should be shushed, hidden, not talked about. How dare you Philip Rose, how dare you. You do not speak for the people who have survived rape assaults such as this and you certainly appear to lack the knowledge and empathy necessary to speak intelligently about it.

I have kept my experiences primarily to myself all these years not because I was ashamed but because it was such a traumatic, horrible thing that happened to me. I pushed it into the far recesses of my brain because I wanted to forget and move on. But that has ended. I have read some of the incredibly horrible remarks that people (otherwise known as trolls) have written. I’m not accusing you of that, Phillip Rose but I am calling you out on what you have written.

I will stand up for what I believe is right and I know I don’t have the time to respond to all the ‘trolls’ but I will speak out. And I will tell you this – No one is going to shush me. And thank god no one is going to shush Reteah’s family or Amanda Todd’s family or any of the families of people who have been through events like this.

So Philip Rose, do yourself and us all a favour. Go back, sit down and think about this. Examine your feelings and question why you have written what you have written. I’d like to say think of it from the perspective of being the father, brother, husband, relative, friend of someone who has lived through something like this. What scares me, is that you might not fight for them but rather think that they ‘deserved it’ or some such other nonsense. I hope that’s not the case.

Shelley W.
From the West Coast of Canada
Grateful wife of a wonderful man
Proud mom to two terrific girls.

Shelley April 17, 2014 - 7:12 pm

Too bad I didn’t know about Philip Rose (if in fact David Sanders, perso365) before I wrote – would have been happy to call him a troll outright.

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