It would be nice to image that, ten years after Rehtaeh died, things have changed for women online. The truth is that things are much, much worse. Not only for young women, but for any women with a voice.
To make matters worse there’s little being done about it. When the rare opportunity presents itself, the criminal courts in Canada seem to treat online abuse with the same indifference social media companies do. Last week, B.C. Judge Peter LaPrairie sentenced Richard Sean Oliver to a single year of probation after he pled guilty to terrorizing journalist and media personality Jody Vance. Oliver harassed and threatened her and her family for years.
A single year of probation. Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason writes that when other victims “see the pathetically light sentence that Ms. Vance’s aggressor received for years of harassment, it will make even more of them question the wisdom of trying to bring their perpetrators to justice. What is the point?”
In her original victim impact statement, Ms. Vance wrote, “Shame on you.” Her hope was to look Oliver in the eye as she said it, but those three words were too much so the court made her cut them out of her statement.
In 2017, Judge Peter LaPrairie sentenced a man to 45 days in jail for abusing a cow.