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4th annual Rae’s Awareness Memorial Walk takes place in Nova Scotia

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4th annual Rae’s Awareness Memorial Walk
The 4th annual Rae's Awareness Memorial Walk took place Saturday afternoon in Cole Harbour, N.S. Global's Natasha Pace reports. – Apr 8, 2017

The 4th annual Rae’s Awareness Memorial Walk took place Saturday afternoon in Cole Harbour, N.S.

The walk is in memory of Rehtaeh Parsons, who died following a suicide attempt in 2013. Her family says Parsons was the victim of relentless harassment after a photo showing her allegedly being sexually assaulted was circulated both online and at her high school.

READ: Rehtaeh Parsons’ mother urging Nova Scotia to move forward with online safety legislation

Following her death, Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons became an outspoken advocate about the need for change and works to spread awareness about consent and sexualized violence through events like the memorial walk.

“Consent doesn’t start just as an adult or young teen. Consent starts with little children saying ‘this is my body, I don’t want to hug you, I don’t want to do this, this is the boundries,'” said Parsons. “When we reach the children early, we don’t have to talk about sexualized violence and consent, but what is consent in itself.”

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READ: Most recommendations from review of Rehtaeh Parsons case underway

People of all ages took part in the walk, something Parsons says is important for getting her message out. “It is so important to have all ages because it affects everyone and we have to change the dialogue starting really young.”

Participants were encouraged to bring a painted stone – each one with a special message – along with them for the walk.

“Whatever area inspires them on our walk, take that stone and just leave it there so other people in the community in the days and weeks to follow will come across that stone and see it and take it home and get something from it,” said Parsons.

For many, the walk has become an annual tradition.

“We’re just here to support Leah and the family and an important cause,” said Erin Welcher, who has taken part for the last three years.

READ MORE: Group sexual assaults more common than many believe: Halifax organization

Quentin Fraser has also participated in the annual event every year that it’s been held. He believes the message of consent is getting out there. “Where I work, I tend to talk about it a lot so, I get a lot of good feedback. It makes me happy. I think it’s spreading.”

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For Tennille Bishop, who grew up with Rehtaeh Parsons, this was her first time taking part. “This is my first year. I don’t think I was ready, but now I am. I’m ready,” she said.

Besides raising awareness, Bishop says the walk is a chance to help keep Rehtaeh’s memory alive. “Rae was full of life for sure. Just her laugh was inspiring to me.”

This year is the first time that Rae’s Awareness walks have been held outside of Cole Harbour. Parsons says walks were also scheduled to take place in other parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

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Horse therapy program in Nova Scotia giving support for sexual assault victims

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