Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Not My Daughter

The photo above is undoubtedly familiar to you. You have probably seen it on your Facebook page, or Twitter, or on the news. And no, she is not local, and she is not my daughter. But in a way you see she belongs to all of us, because she could very well be any of our child. Her name is Rehtaeh, and at the age of 17 she took her own life.

It's a complicated story, and I won't rehash all the details except to say that young Rehtaeh was abused not once, not twice, but three times in those short 17 years on this planet. Once was when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by four young men who found her unconscious. Twice when they decided to take photos and distribute them online, something this brave new world of social media and cell phones has made so easy. Third and finally she was abused when a justice system failed her, and decided that what happened to her was not a criminal act, and declined to press charges. She was failed three times, and in the end the culmination of those failures was her death. At the age of 15, when she was assaulted, she was but 2 years older than my own daughter, and her death saddens and angers me beyond words.

And who failed her? The justice system? The RCMP? Those young men? Yes, I think they did. And so did we. We failed her, and thousands of young people like her. We have failed those who have been assaulted and who have not seen justice. We have failed those who are the victims of bullying, both online and in the real world. And I think in some sense we have failed our youth today, because I deeply fear that as adults we are so consumed in our own worlds that we have failed to remember how fragile and precious and young fifteen really is. For some strange reason we see that age as "almost an adult" and forget how the world seems such a precarious place at fifteen.

I could go on and on about this tragedy, and about what this has done to me. I look at my own daughter and think about how I would kill - and die - for her. I think about my vow to protect her from all in the world that is evil and cruel and wrong - and yet I know I cannot, and that failure brings me to my knees.

Her name was Rehtaeh Parsons. She was not my daughter, and most likely not yours. And yet somehow tonight when I sit here and gaze at her photo I feel the responsibility for her life - and her death - weighing heavily on me. She was not my daughter - and yet in sense she was, because just as it takes a village to raise a child it takes a village to fail them. And we, all of us in this global village, failed our daughter this week. That is a heavy weight to bear.


  1. I attribute it to ignorance about technology on the part of the police, the failure of the bystanders to stand up, and those who were horrified and did NOT speak truth to power.
    What is important is if these people learn from it.


    There are no fucking places for rape victims to go in fort mcmurray and everyone tells us our only worth is as wives to the site men who tell us they DESERVE our vaginas because they haven't seen one in a month and worked so hard.

    It doesn't matter WHO knew the girl, or whether she had FAMILY she had value all on her own without being a DAUGHTER.

    I was a sixteen year old doing cocaine to try and forgot being raped at knife point for 6 months by my boyfriend and having everyone in my life make me feel like i deserved it because i was a woman.

    1. I agree she - and all other women - have value apart from being a daughter. Because I am the mother of a teenage girl I tend to frame many things in reference to my child - but not because I do not believe she, or other women, do not have their own intrinsic value. They absolutely do. For me, though, I cannot always separate being a mother from being a woman - it is all tied together in my head, and has always been since the day my beloved daughter came into my world and changed it forever.

      I feel your pain through your reply, Anonymous, and I am deeply sorry for what you have suffered. No one should endure that pain or the legacy it leaves.

  3. You're failing us too!

    1. I believe I said that I feel a part of that failure, Anonymous. If you'd like to expand on that comment feel free as four words don't really tell me much.