Leah's boyfriend, Jason Barnes, blamed adults as well as the children at the school. "The justice system failed us completely," he told the Star. "The education system didn’t seem to do much of anything." The local school board and government officials said this week that they are considering whether to reopen the case — not just the attack but the fallout, and how it could have been handled different. (Update, 3:55 p.m. Eastern: Citing a break in the case with "new and credible information," the Mounties have re-opened their investigation into Rehtaeh Parsons, reports Toronto's CP24, now that "the person who provided the new information is willing to verify who they are, the reason they're providing it and is willing to work with investigators." The Mounties insisted that the information did not stem "from an online source.)
Why Rehtaeh and Audrie's Cases Look Like Steubenville
It's not just because outraged media outlets call Rehtaeh's case "Canada's Steubenville," or just because as word broke out of Santa Clara Thursday night, many started to say it's "not just Rehtaeh." The primary reason that Steubenville keep returning to the fore is, that the lessons we were supposed to learn from Steubenville haven't been learned — the Ohio attorney general's office says it's monitoring social media 24 hours a day to prevent more victim shaming after two teens were arrested for threatening the victim's life following the verdict in which two football players were found guilty in juvenile court of raping the 16-year-old from across state lines.
But in all three cases there is photo evidence from drunken teenage parties, of a girl in various states of undress — photos passed around immediately from suspect to fellow partygoer, from classmate to classmate, from cell phone to text message to email, and eventually to Instagram and Twitter and Facebook. And, often too late, to parents and educators and police.
In Steubenville, photos and videos of Jane Doe — her family has not gone public with her name, as is customary for victims of sexual assault — were taken at multiple parties. Many of them were shared among students that night. But most of them, with the exception of one Instagram photo (pictured at left) that went viral and a few more that were presented at the trial, were immediately deleted. One of the convicted rapists, Trent Mays, was convicted of "illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material."
Three boys involved in Pott's attack have been arrested, but the extent of the social media activity — which is under renewed scrutiny in Canada — remains unclear as the case in California gets underway. USA Today reports:
Santa Clara County Sheriff's Lt. Jose Cardoza said it arrested two of the teens at Saratoga High School and the third, a former Saratoga High student, at Christopher High School in Gilroy on Thursday. The names of the suspects were not released because they are minors.
Cardoza said the suspects were booked into juvenile hall and face two felonies and one misdemeanor each, all related to sexual battery that allegedly occurred at a Saratoga house party.
Why Halifax Might Be Worse Than Steubenville
A key difference in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons — and perhaps why it's become so gripping of a news story, from Canada to America and even internationally — is that no one was ever charged with a crime. And that's the second layer of this case: After one year of investigation by the police no one has been charged. Canada's Global News reports:
RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said the Mounties and Halifax Regional Police launched a joint investigation in November 2011 into a report of a sexual assault and an inappropriate photo. He declined to name the alleged victim or talk specifically about the case, citing privacy concerns.
"That investigation was completed and in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges," MacRae said Tuesday.
Macrae acknowledges that there is a photo — or are multiple photos — but says there may be more to the story than what Rehteah claimed:
I know some people are saying you know, it’s simple, there’s photographs and go with it. But there’s identification processes — where did the photo come from. So there’s more to this story and that’s really important.
So at the heart of this story, there is a family claiming rape. There is a photo of the alleged attack — not deleted but out there in the wilds of teenagers and their social media accounts both public and private, and it's illegal to take sexual photos of a minor in Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police found that there wasn't enough evidence to proceed with charges. The entire school community seemed to know something was wrong, but nobody did anything. And then Parsons ended her life, which her mother maintains was due not just to the shaming in school but to a lack of prosecution — a decision that wasn't solely up to the Mounties:
Two prosecutors were assigned to review the case. One looking into a possible sexual assault charge and another who specializes in child pornography cases to analyse the photographic evidence.
We looked at all of the evidence surrounding the photo and we did a real sort of 360 view of that very thoroughly and there just was not the evidence to warrant a realistic prospect of conviction,” says [Nova Scotia Public Prosecution spokesperson] Chris Hansen.
Leah Parsons says the four boys she claims assaulted her daughter were not questioned until 10 months after the incident was reported which seems off. In the U.S., the convicted Steubenville rapists were arrested eight days after Jane Doe and her family came forward. The justice minister in Nova Scotia is expected to meet with Leah soon in determining whether the case should be reopened: "I am committed to exploring the mechanisms that exist to review the actions of all relevant authorities to ensure the system is always working to the best of its ability, in pursuit of justice," Minister Ross Landry said Tuesday. Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper late this week praised the court, and suggested that bullying should be considered a crime.