The mother of a Nova Scotia teen who took her own life following an alleged sexual assault and relentless bullying believes a stronger message should have been sent to six young men who shared intimate images of underage girls.
On Wednesday, the teens, who are all from the Bridgewater, N.S. area, were handed conditional discharges. They had previously pleaded guilty to exchanging images, including nude photos, of at least 20 girls between the ages of 13 and 17 without their consent.
All of the teens were under the age of 18 at the time of the offences, therefore they were charged as youth and their identities are protected from publication.
“What they did was wrong”: Leah Parsons
Leah Parsons, mother of Rehtaeh Parsons believes a stronger message needed to be sent to the Bridgewater teens.
“Yes, these are children but they knew what they did was wrong,” said Parsons. “What it’s saying to the victims, it makes them feel like what happened to them didn’t matter.”
Rehtaeh’s story made headlines around the world when, at just 17-years-old, she was taken off life support following a suicide attempt in April 2013. Rehtaeh’s family has said she was the victim of a group sexual assault and was harassed both at school and online after a photo of the incident circulated.
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Intimate images case a first of its kind
Since her daughter’s death, Parsons has dedicated her time to raising awareness about a number of issues affecting young people.
Parsons says the case in Bridgewater is the first of its kind in Canada to be tried under a new section of law.
The intimate images bill became law in 2015 and makes it illegal to share images without consent.
Unlike child pornography laws, section 162(1) of the criminal code can be applied both to teens and adults and it doesn’t require that images involved have a sexual purpose. The penalties are also less severe.
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More education needed
Although Parsons believes a the teens in the sexting scandal should have been given a tougher sentence, she doesn’t believe jail time is the answer.
Instead, Parsons says she would have liked to see the courts “hit them where it hurts” and “take away their devices, not allowed on social media, not allowed to have phones for a period of time,” she said.
Parsons believes there should be more education and presentations in schools to help young people understand that what they are doing can have a serious, lasting impact. “There has to be courses out there to teach and give examples how damaging these types of things can be to people,” she said.
With files from the Canadian Press