Rehtaeh Parsons’ kin denounce sex assault at 3rd annual Slut Walk

PHOTO GALLERY: http://www.ottawasun.com/2013/09/07/rehtaeh-parsons-kin-denounce-sex-assault-at-3rd-annual-slut-walk

Rehtaeh Parsons would’ve loved to denounce victim-blaming during the third annual Slut Walk Ottawa.

“She would’ve participated in this for sure,” said Parsons’ aunt Kim De Angelis, adding “she was not a weak person.”

A group of Parsons’ Ottawa-based family members, including her grandmother, joined the crowd of 150 people at the Human Rights monument on Elgin St. Saturday afternoon, donning Rae of Light T-shirts, as Fateema Ghani proclaimed there’s “no excuse for sexual assault.”

The event aims to send the message that survivors of sex assault are never at fault.

“Rehtaeh herself went through slut-shaming,” said aunt Shari Canning.

Parsons, a 17-year-old Nova Scotian, took her own life earlier this year after enduring months of bullying in the wake of an alleged gang rape which saw photos of her distributed at school.

Her parents spoke out and the case has drawn international attention. Parsons found solace in Ottawa, said De Angelis, whose brother, Glen Canning, is Parsons’ father.

“Rehtaeh came here last summer to escape all of the bullying back in Nova Scotia,” she said. They took her to a family cottage where she had “a great time. She was able to be a teenager, just be herself, all of that stuff,” said De Angelis, pointing out Parsons returned home for school.

To honour their niece, the pair founded the charity to provide cottages or retreats where sexual assault victims can go to heal. Their goal is to have 10 such places set up for next summer. The Slut Walk was inspired following a January 2011 incident. A Toronto Police officer giving a campus safety presentation at York University suggested women avoid dressing like a ‘slut.’

“I’ve just always sort of agreed with the idea that sexual assault should be about supporting victims,” said Hannah Collins, 19.

Rayne Fisher, 19, stripped down to a Wonder Woman-type bikini to state her case.

“I do have a few friends who not only are suffering from the pain and trauma of being affected by rape, but also they feel like they’re deserving of it because the friends of the (perpetrator) let the guy hide behind the shield that she was deserving of it because of her outfit, because of her being under the influence of alcohol,” said Fisher.

For details about Rae of Light, visit their Facebook page or @RaeofLight3 on Twitter.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

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