Police had reopened investigation; two males now face charges
17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons died three days after hanging herself
Her family says she was raped and a photo was circulated
Two 18-year-old men face child pornography charges in connection with the case of a 17-year-old girl who hanged herself after she was allegedly gang-raped and bullied online, Canadian authorities said Thursday evening.
A police statement did not provide details, but the family of Rehtaeh Parsons has said she developed suicidal thoughts after she was sexually assaulted in 2011 and a picture of the incident was shared by phone and online.
The two men whose names were not released were arrested Thursday morning at their homes in Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Halifax Regional Police.
One man faces two counts of distribution of child pornography, authorities said. The other is accused of one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of making child pornography.
The two, who were minors at the time of the incident, were released on a promise to appear August 15 in youth court.
Parsons was taken off life support in April, three days after she hanged herself.
The alleged sexual assault by four boys happened in November 2011 when Rehtaeh was 15, her family said.
Authorities confirmed that a photograph was circulated to friends’ mobile phones and computers.
Police investigated, but no criminal charges were filed at that time. In April, police in eastern Canada announced they would reopen the case “in light of new and credible information that has recently been brought forward to police.”
Chief Superintendent Roland Wells of Halifax District RCMP said he hoped the arrests will help the community heal.
“A young girl has died in what was a tragic set of circumstances,” Wells said in Thursday evening’s statement. “We all need to reflect on how we as a community can come together in Rehtaeh’s memory and see what we can do to work together to support our youth.”
Parsons’ mother told CNN affiliate CBC on Thursday that she felt “better” now that arrests have been made.
Leah Parsons said she learned of the arrests when police came to her house to tell her.
“I felt a little bit of relief, just to say, finally – like I hope – they keep saying they want to tell their side of the story, but they have never given a statement. The police have never spoken to them in all this time. So at least, here is your chance. Tell your side of the story,” she said.
News of the arrests came one day after cybersafety legislation inspired by Parsons was implemented in Nova Scotia.
The law allows victims, among other things, to sue their alleged cyberbullies. If a bully is a minor, the bully’s parents can be held liable.
Officials said the timing of the arrests and the implementation of the legislation was merely a coincidence.