So on Monday morning when I posted a reflection covering the prevalence of sexual assault against young people, I had no idea how quickly the global issue would arise with the suicide of a rape victim. Rehtaeh Parsons. That’s the name of a young person in Canada who was gang raped by four schoolmates. Pictures of the assault were captured on a cell phone and then the distribution went viral around her school and community.
Her mother recalls the experience of social media in the wake of the assault: “People texted her all the time, saying ‘Will you have sex with me?’” she remembered. “Girls texting, saying ‘You’re such a slut.’”
On March 4th, Rehtaeh hung herself in the bathroom. On March 7th, her family took her off of life support. She was failed by law enforcement who never pressed charges. She was failed by a school community and classmates who exacerbated her suffering and shame.
What kind of social evil exists where a group of young boys dominate a classmate and then publicize her suffering? Why are we so afraid to call sexual assault and rape ‘evil=abuse of power’ for that is what they are? How can we be signs of divine healing for our friends, roommates, and classmates who struggle as victims?
We shouldn’t be surprised that suicide is an attractive ‘out’ for young people whose lives are ruined at the dangerous intersection of sexuality, rape culture, trauma, and social media.
Remember the statistics from my first post, the prevalence of victims who contemplate suicide? Rehtaeh Parsons is just one young person whose life is no more.
Victims of sexual assault are (from World Health Organization):
3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.