The film, which is now available on Canadian Amazon Prime Video, tells the story of the Nova Scotian teen who died by suicide
No Place to Hide: The Rehtaeh Parsons Story¸ which was released in 2015, tells the story of Rehtaeh who was a Cole Harbour District High School student. After months of cyberbullying, she died by suicide.
“I think the title is really accurate because there was no place for her to hide,” Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons, tells NEWS 95.7’s The Sheldon MacLeod Show. “There’s something powerful about being able to share your experience and your pain with other people.”
In September 2011, Rehtaeh started high school at the age of 15. After a couple of months into the term, Rehtaeh and her new friend went over to a home with four other teenaged men. As the teenagers began drinking alcohol, Rehtaeh quickly became intoxicated and was left alone in the house with the young men.
One of the young men was allegedly having sex with Rehtaeh while another was yelling for someone to take a picture.
Three days later, one picture was circulated around the high school. Rehtaeh became the victim of cyberbullying and was called a “slut.”
In April 2013, Rehtaeh died at the age of 17. She attempted suicide and three days later was taken off life support.
The documentary, directed by filmmaker and writer Rama Rau, has been available on Amazon Prime in the United States. An episode of Web of Lies about Rehtaeh Parsons’ story has also been playing on the American television network Investigation Discovery for two years.
As the film makes its way to Canadian Amazon Prime, Leah said her she is once again being flooded with messages.
“It just allows me to know that her message is still reaching people, even after seven-and-a-half years,” she said.
One of the messages includes a person who said they’re going to show the documentary to their own children to show the potentially damaging effects of one’s own actions.
On top of the film touching its viewers, Leah said it’s also reigniting conversations around subjects such as rape culture, cyber-abuse and hiding behind computer screens.
“When something is so a part of all our systems, [such as] the police, the mental health systems, the school systems, we don’t just hear it once,” she said. “We have to hear it over and over again.
“We need to hear it in so many different ways because that’s how change happens.”
Since the incident in 2013, Leah said she believes things have changed.
“If a photo was to show up in a school right now, there’s no way it would be shared for 17 months,” she said. “It would be shut down so fast.”
But that doesn’t mean Leah’s goals and her work has ended.
Leah runs two online groups — Soul Speak and Soul Speak Membership Interest Group — where she helps people navigate pain and loss. She also started the Rehtaeh Parsons Society which focuses on wellness through the education, awareness and prevention of sexualized violence and cyber-abuse.
“I just know that there’s a lot of people that are suffering and that are stuck in their ‘spirals of pain’ is what I call it,” she said. “I just know that we’re supposed to help each other. So, if I can offer any guidance, help, words that help people, then I want to do that.
“I think we’re all supposed to serve in some ways, so that’s one of my ways.”
While Leah believes everything happens for a reason, she said she stays away from saying that to people who are in deep pain or who’ve lost something such as a person, job or relationship.
“It’s just a hard thing to kind of hear at that time because it doesn’t feel like things are happening for a reason in those moments,” she said. “So, I do kind of tend to steer away from that.
“There’s a misguided perception out there that, for some reason, we think life is supposed to be easy. But life is really hard.”
After Rehtaeh’s death in 2013, Leah began speaking out. She said she was dissatisfied with the RMCP’s investigation of allegations that her daughter was sexually assaulted.
By August 2013, a new law was enacted in Nova Scotia — the first of its kind in Canada — which allowed people to sue if they or their children are being cyberbullied.
The day after the law was enacted, two young men were charged in the case — fourth months after Rehtaeh died.
One was charged with two counts of distributing child pornography while another was charged with making and distributing child pornography. There have been no charges of sexual assault.
Now, Leah says she thinks people should embrace the challenges of life and think about how one can grow from those experiences. By doing that, people can move forward with that pain.
“I have just found that to be so true in my journey of pain.”