One day after a new law took effect protecting Nova Scotia victims of cyberbullying, Canada police finally made arrests on child pornography charges in the case that initially inspired the new measures. Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, killed herself in April after being shunned by her community and school for photo evidence spread online of her rape. The events that led to Parsons death included the worst elements of rape culture: Rehtaeh faced ongoing victim-blaming harrassment via text messages and social media.
Police initially told the Parsons they couldn’t help because distributing the photos was “not really a criminal issue,” even though Rehtaeh was underage at the time. They only reopened the case after international outcry over Rehtaeh’s death, with a petition that drew more than 450,000 signatures. On Thursday, police arrested and charged two 18-year-old boys for making and distributing child porn.
Nova Scotia’s new Cybersafety Act is meant to protect bullying victims where the law failed Rehtaeh: It allows cyberbullying victims to get a court order to protect themselves and identify those responsible, and allows victims to sue. Canadian law already forbade child pornography. The case has inspired other areas to take notice, too, with Alberta considering similar action.
Rehateah’s father, Glen Canning, admitted the legislation likely would have helped his daughter. “I think for the first two weeks after the incident happened with my daughter, there was a photo being passed around her school to dozens of people,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that that could happen unopposed, it could happen without any consequences whatsoever and we really had no recourse at all.”