Nicolette Little

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ABSTRACT: Rehtaeh Parsons died by suicide after she was sexually assaulted, then “slut shamed.” I explore Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah’s, use of a Facebook memorial immediately following Rehtaeh’s death, demonstrating that Facebook played multiple, complex and beneficial roles for Leah, permitting her to memorialize her daughter, and providing channels for emotional release and support. It also permitted Leah to develop her activist sensibilities, contradict society’s branding of Rehtaeh as a “suicidal slut,” and call those responsible for Rehtaeh’s suffering to account. In our highly digitized era, social network sites (SNSs) offer support to parents grieving the ultimate loss: a child.


In November of 2011, Rehtaeh Parsons was allegedly raped by four boys while intoxicated. One boy photographed her as she vomited out of a window and was simultaneously penetrated by one of his friends, who adopted a “thumbs up” pose for the camera. The photographer text messaged the photograph to peers and it quickly spread community-wide (Leah Parsons, personal communication, Dec. 7, 2015; Blatchford 2015).1

The term “Rape culture,” coined by 1970s feminists, is defined as:

[A] complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm. (Buchwald et al. 1993, vii)

Keeping this definition in mind, Rehtaeh suffered mercilessly as a result of Canada’s rape culture both the night she was sexually assaulted, as well as over the 17 months that followed. Victim blaming and slut-shaming began almost immediately. As Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, states, this photograph’s viral dissemination led Rehtaeh to become a “target of relentless harassment” (Parsons 2015, n. pag.). “Everyone started calling her a slut,” and Rehtaeh’s “friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her asking her to have sex with them. It just never stopped” (Parsons as qtd. in CBC News 2013). Even Rehtaeh’s “best friend” updated her Facebook status to read, “Sluts need to leave this school anyway” (Parsons, pers. comm., January 27, 2016).

On April 4, 2013, worn down by constant bullying, Rehtaeh Parsons hanged herself. She was taken off life support on April 7. In the immediate aftermath of her death, Leah did what 21st-century mourners often do: she took to Facebook. A family friend created the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons Facebook page for Leah the same day Rehtaeh died, and on the very next day–as well as over the weeks and years since–Leah put it to extensive and memorable use (Parsons, pers. comm.)

Rehtaeh’s suicide–along with that of BC teen Amanda Todd, who similarly died by suicide following online sexual exploitation and unrelenting slut-shaming–has been a flashpoint for renewed discussions about sexualized violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Canada. In the years since her death in 2013, Leah has become a recognizable advocate in the fight to expose and end rape culture, speaking out at schools across Canada, through various social media, Ted Talks, and more. The Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page is the venue where her mourning, rage, frustration, pain, and desire for change first exploded in a highly visible way, and its opening post was read around the world within hours by a vastly socially networked public. It is important to understand where and how Leah took her first steps towards the anti-rape activism she is known for today.

In this paper I explore Leah Parsons’s use of the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page immediately following Rehtaeh’s death. I pay special attention to Leah’s lengthy opening post, which was quoted broadly by mainstream media in early coverage of Rehtaeh’s case, as well as Leah’s engagement with the site over the week following her daughter’s death. In doing so, I demonstrate that Facebook played multiple and complex roles for Leah as she attempted to process her tragedy. Certainly, she memorialized her daughter through this site–which is one of the more typical functions of a social network site (SNS) memorial (McNeill 2004; Church 2013). But it also provided a channel for the cathartic release of emotions connected with losing a child, as well as a means of surrounding herself with unprecedented support during her early bereavement. Importantly, the page permitted Leah to reclaim her own and Rehtaeh’s “side of the story,” vocally contradict society’s branding of Rehtaeh as “suicidal slut,” and call to account the people and institutions Leah deemed responsible for Rehtaeh’s suffering and death. I refrain from making cyber-utopic statements about Facebook being a uniquely rehabilitative tool for the bereaved. Indeed, Leah herself envisions social media as a “Catch-22” type of tool (Parsons, pers. comm., December 7, 2015), having watched her daughter face interminable harassment through digital media, and having faced the odd offensive post mounted on Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page, as I will discuss. Yet, this SNS provided an outlet for Leah’s convoluted grief and a fertile ground from which her anti-rape culture and anti-bullying activism could grow. Her use of Facebook also demonstrates this SNS can function as a dynamic channel through which rape culture can be called out and made visible. In our highly digitized era, SNSs provide unique support to parents grieving the ultimate loss–that of a child, and through sexual assault, no less.

Framework and Review of the Literature

I locate my study of Leah Parsons’s use of Facebook in the digital memory studies and feminist media studies fields. Since I explore Leah’s SNS use as a means of responding to broader systemic social barriers and attitudes that hurt girls and women like Rehtaeh, focus on user practices, and consider Facebook posts as cultural products of significance for study, this research also emerges from a cultural studies framework (Kellner 2011). Following my review of the literature in the fields of digital memorial studies and feminist media studies, I indicate where my work fits within each.

Digital Memorial Studies

The social media mourning studies field is in its infancy. Academic interest was more intensely piqued after Mark Zuckerberg’s 2005 creation of Facebook. Even after Facebook’s inception, as Scott Church (2013) implies, it took some time for users to begin to die (184). Pamela Roberts (2004; 2012) identifies affordances of online mourning sites that reverberate throughout subsequent studies of SNS grieving. Pamela Roberts and Lourdes A. Vidal (2000) note that web memorials are accessible to those who cannot easily attend a funeral due to mobility issues, allow mourners to feel that the dead are still “present,” and permit web mourners to unite in a virtual community (43). Roberts and Vidal conclude that “all indicators suggest that creating web memorials has a positive impact on the bereaved” (43).

Other authors, although focusing on SNS grieving in particular, closely follow Roberts’s (2004; 2012) and Roberts and Vidal’s (2000) footsteps. Brian Carroll and Katie Landry (2010), Jessa Lingel (2013), Church (2013), Tony Walter, Rachid Hourizi, Wendy Moncur and Stacey Pitsillides (2012), and Jed Brubaker, Gillian Hayes and Paul Dourish (2013) note that social media mourning disrupts long-held funerary traditions in the West and almost uniquely portray SNSs as positive mourning spaces for the bereaved. Carla J. Sofka (2009), Carroll and Landry (2010), Kimberly Hieftje (2012), Roberts (2012), and Joanna Pawelezyk (2013), for example, envision SNS memorials as spaces for emotional release and processing: these sites help mourners express, as well as understand, their loss.

In addition to being channels for healthful expression, Carroll and Landry (2010), Hieftje (2012), Brubaker, Hayes and Dourish (2013), Church (2013), Lingel (2013), and Walter et al (2010) concur with Roberts and Vidal (2000) that social media allow mourners to grieve accessibly. In terms of psychological inclusivity, Carroll and Landry (2010), Hieftje (2012) and Korina Giaxoglou (2014) point out that SNSs provide a venue for what J.K. Doka (1998) terms “disenfranchised mourners,” especially those who feel left out of traditional mourning practices, to express and have acknowledged their feelings of loss (Doka, quoted in Brubaker, Kivran- Swaine, Taber and Hayes 2012, 2).

Another oft-repeated point in the literature is that SNSs permit the living to experience a continued sense of connection with their dead (Roberts 2012; Hieftje 2012; Church 2013), while some scholars extend this point by suggesting that SNSs allow the living to communicate with the dead, or even “type the deceased back into being” (Brubaker, Hayes and Dourish 2013; Carroll and Landry 2010; Church 2013, 184). In addition to SNSs being a connective force between the dead and the living, scholars such as Church (2013) and Roberts (2004; 2012) agree that SNSs unite the living in an “imagined community of bereavement” (Church, 184).

While the literature on SNS grieving is largely cyber-utopic, a few scholars consider the pitfalls of SNS memorializing. Walter et al. (2012), Giaxoglou (2014), and James Meese, Martin Gibbs, Marcus Carter, Michael Arnold, Bjorn Nansen and Tamara Kohn (2015) note that SNS memorials allow strangers–people who did not know the deceased–to intermingle with mourners, compromising what was once a private act of grieving loss. Michael Harris (2014), who considers the cruelly vandalized SNS memorials dedicated to Amanda Todd, and Giaxoglou (2014), albeit both in passing, note the fertile soil memorial sites present for the Internet’s scourge: trolls.

Feminist Media Studies

In addition to contributing to social media memorials scholarship, I situate my work in the feminist media studies field, within a subset of studies that explore feminist uses of new media to call out sexism and misogyny. Recent scholarship explores the uses of social media to call out sexism, sexual assault, and violence against women and girls VAWG (Jane 2017; Rentschler 2014; Keller, Mendes and Ringrose 2016; Powell 2015; Armstrong, Hull and Saunders 2016; Horeck 2014), or offer support for survivors of sexual assault and VAWG (Rentschler 2014; Keller 2015; Jane 2017; Keller, Mendes and Ringrose 2016). A number of scholars note that such social media use forms bonds of solidarity among feminists (Powell 2015; Keller, Mendes and Ringrose 2016; Mendes 2015), that young feminists learn about, or experience facilitated entrance into, feminism through related SNS communities (Keller, Mendes and Ringrose 2016; Sills et. al. 2016; Keller 2015; Rentschler 2014), and that feminists gain important technological skills and knowledge through their experimentation with digitally mediated feminism (Rentschler and Thrift 2015). Other recent works explore the use of social media to organize and coordinate offline protests against rape culture (Mendes 2015; Keller 2015), and Keller, Mendes and Ringrose (2016) have taken the unique approach of exploring the affective experiences of teen feminists who use social media to call out sexism.

While the above-mentioned scholars focus on digital media’s uses for augmenting feminists’ voices or facilitating activism, Horeck (2014), Jackson and Banaszczyk (2016), and Jane (2017) question digital media’s actual benefits with regards to addressing sexism and/or VAWG. Horeck (2014) notes, for example, that while social media provide unprecedented and immediate avenues for challenging sexism, these media also facilitate sexist discourse and women’s humiliation through the sharing of intimate images (1106). Jackson and Banaszczyk (2016) also note that the racial marginalization that women of colour experience in daily life gets reproduced in the Twitterverse, as black feminists are attacked and marginalized not only by misogynists, but also by their white feminist counterparts. Looking at Facebook rather than Twitter, Jane (2017) concludes that using social media to call out instances of online misogyny can lead to trouble at work for, or online attacks against, women–as well as the shuffling of onus for addressing sexism onto women’s shoulders and a detrimental public complacency born of the sense that sexism has been successfully remedied. Other scholars interrogate the SNS- mediated sharing of intimate images from assaults similar to Rehtaeh’s. They suggest that such photographic sharing destroys the survivor’s ability to rebuild her identity after rape (Heyes 2016), and that such sharing is further indicative of rape culture’s existence, as the photographs are “read as entertainment or as evidence against the victim’s character rather than as evidence of sexual assault” (Dodge 2016, 71).

Few media studies address media in relation to Rehtaeh’s tragedy specifically. Those that do focus on problematic mainstream media reportage around this case. Alison Fyfe (2014), for example, contends that journalists’ reportage on Canadian teens Rehtaeh’s, Amanda Todd’s and Rina Virk’s deaths simultaneously locates these girls as the cause of their own assault and demise while diminishing the seriousness of the attacks they faced. Other scholars suggest that the media use vague language related to “bullying” to obscure the fact that sexual assault and societal power imbalances that favour men and boys caused these girls’ suicides (Darch and Jiwa 2015). Armstrong, Hull and Saunders (2016), while focusing on the Steubenville, OH rape case, also touch upon Rehtaeh’s death. These scholars note that the mainstream media fail to convey important case details that could shift public perception in victims’ favour, rhetorically transfer blame onto victims, and re-traumatize survivors. Other media-focused works that address Parsons’s case take the form of anti-cyberbullying and mental health promotion treatises (Stanbrook 2014; Zhang, Osberg and Phipps 2014) that regrettably, similar to the mainstream media reportage discussed above, fail to consider the sexual exploitation she faced.

My study of the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page unites the digital media studies subfields of SNS memorials and feminist activism. It also extends scholarship in these subfields in several ways: First, with regard to digital memorial studies, scholarship overwhelmingly considers SNS mourning practices of students (Sofka 2009; Carroll and Landry 2010; Hieftje 2012; Williams and Merten 2009) and the elderly or immobile (Roberts 2004; Lingel 2013), but does not address those of grieving parents, let alone of one of Canada’s most recognizable mourning mothers: Leah Parsons. Furthermore, the majority of studies explore the lingering social media profiles of the deceased to study loved ones’ grieving and memorializing practices, whereas I transfer the study of mourning to a separate SNS page created by a living family member. Finally, while Giaxoglou (2014) and Meese et. al (2015) suggest that SNS memorials permit strangers to intrude in others’ grieving, they do not examine the ways that strangers’ involvement impacts mourners or the sites on which they mourn, but problematize this access nonetheless. In contrast, I examine ways that Facebook users, who were strangers to Leah, engaged with the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page and helped sustain Leah in her darkest times. No other studies focus specifically, on the uses of an SNS memorial to address a rape-related death and carry out related activism.

Second, with regard to the feminist media studies field, scholars to date explore teens’ and/or young women’s SNS-based feminism (Rentschler 2014; Keller 2015; Keller, Mendes and Ringrose 2016). No studies, however, explore such SNS-mediated challenges to rape culture by middle-aged or older women (at the time the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page was created, Leah was in her 40s), or mourning parents of sexual assault victims. Moreover, no research examines Leah Parsons’s SNS-mediated grassroots feminism or call-outs of rape culture. It is important to explore Leah Parsons’s use of this SNS memorial site to hold her daughters’ rapists, bullies, and the institutions that failed her accountable, as Leah has since become a significant voice in national and government discussions and policymaking around VAWG and the digital sharing of intimate images. In 2016, Leah Parsons and I were both called (separately) as Expert Witnesses for the federal government’s 2017 Violence Against Young Women and Girls Study, which has already had policy and legal implications on ways VAWG is addressed around Canada (House of Commons 2017; Little 2016). It is important to see where her contributions to women’s well-being in Canada began; it is also important to understand how a middle-aged woman with no previous experience in feminist activism was able to speak out against rape culture and about her daughter’s loss with, as I will demonstrate, international resonance. It is with such knowledge that we may better facilitate others’ entry, across a broader demographic range, into making SNS-mediated interventions in rape culture.


Leah Parsons is a prolific Facebook user. This is evident in her creation and/or use and administration of three sites: her personal Leah Parsons page, the Rehtaeh Parsons Society page and the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page. There is abundant posting activity across all three accounts. I explore the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page for several reasons: First, it is a public group, and this allows me to study a dedicated SNS memorial while respecting Leah’s privacy. And second, the public nature of the site permits me to use Netvizz, a Facebook data extraction application, to collect and analyze data from the page. Netvizz, for ethical reasons, only permits data extraction from public, rather than private, Facebook accounts (Felt 2016).

There has been abundant activity on the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page since its April 7, 2013 inception. From this date to that of my data extraction, April 6, 2017, Leah posted 2,137 times. These posts generated 73,635 comments and 629,340 reactions from visitors. This paper’s scope, as well as the sheer amount of data, does not permit me to explore all posting activities on this page: Over the month, immediately prior to my data extraction alone, 75 posts were made to the site and visitors left 526 comments (Netvizz, April 6, 2017). Culling a manageable sample from this vibrant memorial was a necessity.

I explore the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page activity during the week following its creation, to determine Leah’s immediate post-loss mourning practices. Since Leah founded the site on April 7, 2013 but did not post until April 8, 2013, I include April 8 to April 15, 2013 in my seven- day sample. During this week, Leah posted 42 times, garnering 11, 307 comments, 52,990 reactions, and 11,013 shares from site visitors (Netvizz, April 6, 2017). I focus on Leah’s posts within this time frame, paying particular attention, through discursive textual analysis, to her lengthy and widely cited opening post. I also, however, consider site visitors’ responses from April 8 to 15, 2013. Because the site received 4,650 posts and 11,754 comments from visitors during this week (and 31 posts and 6,903 comments the first day she posted!), I examine each of the 31 posts made the day Leah published her opening post, to determine the immediate support she received.

I interval sampled every 100th of the remaining 4,619 visitors’ posts from April 8 to 15 to get an overview of the timbre of the responses she received (Netvizz, April 6, 2017). Because studying comment threads, in addition to the Wall posts above that inspired them, would take significant time, I leave comments out of my current sample. Using content analysis and discursive textual analysis, I explore responses to Leah’s opening post as well as visitors’ Wall posts throughout the first week. These methods permit me to determine the level and type of feedback and support Leah received through the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page and to interrogate the ways in which critiques of rape culture were discursively produced during this early and intense period of mourning. Finally, I draw upon semi-structured interviews that I conducted with Leah during an earlier phase of this study. These interviews provide insight into Leah’s personal experiences with social media after Rehtaeh’s death.

The Angel Rehtaeh Parsons Page: Not Your Typical SNS Memorial

The “About” Section

The casual observer might initially deem the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page to be a “typical” SNS memorial. A profile picture of Rehtaeh, full of life and making the symbol of a heart with her hands, greets viewers to the site. A larger cover picture shows another image of Rehtaeh, this time on a placard held aloft in a mourning crowd, reminding us that while she passed on, she will be remembered. Also seemingly typical is the fact that this Facebook page was created by a living loved one, and is explicitly dedicated to a lost child: indeed, the “About” section reads, “Our Angel, born December 9th, 1995… Tragically passed away on April 7, 2013” (Parsons, April 7, 2013). This “About” section closely aligns with what Laurie McNeill (2004) describes as the highly conservative and often conflated death-writing genres–including memorial tributes, death notices or eulogies–in the fact that the deceased’s biographical details (dates of birth and death) are provided, she is idealized (likened to an “Angel”), and the writer claims close connection with the dead (Leah uses the possessive, “Our,” to introduce her “Angel”) (McNeill 152; Parsons, April 7, 2013).

However, Leah’s use and capitalization of the adverb “Tragically” stands out in the “About” section, and deeper exploration of the page indicates that it plays a more convoluted role. The emphasis she places on the nature of Rehtaeh’s loss disrupts conventional death- related writing’s focus on the lived life of the deceased, as described by McNeill (2004). This word’s prominent and accentuated use suggests that the page creator, and the page itself, are actively engaged in remembering Rehtaeh’s “Tragedy” along with Rehtaeh herself. This single- sentence snippet, which simultaneously evokes Rehtaeh as a beloved and idealized being and hints at darker reasons for her death, hints at the complex functions this page will play for Leah: On the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page, Leah will remember, grieve and present her daughter in an idealized light, yes–but she will also step outside of the typical honouring, remembering, and mourning foci of death-writing genres (McNeill 2004; Church 2013) to vent anger, call the people she feels are responsible for Rehtaeh’s death to task, and re-write Rehtaeh’s “story” posthumously. This page facilitates Leah’s battle cry against the scourges she feels ended her daughter’s life: rapists and rape culture.

Leah’s Opening Post

While the “About” section hints at the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page’s commemorative complexity, Leah’s first post, published at 2:20 pm on April 8, 2013, confirms these suspicions. As the site’s opening post and the official, “pinned” “Story,” it reveals much about Leah’s drives in using the SNS memorial, as well as what she hopes Facebook users will take away from their Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page visit.

The opening post, like the “About” section, opens with typical memorializing words: “This page is dedication [sic] to my wonderful Daughter who was smart, beautiful, and full of life with a deep compassion to animals” (Parsons, April 8, 2013). Of the entire 804-word passage, however, only four sentences (approximately 55 out of 804 words)–the above-noted one at the passage’s opening and three near the end–continue in this typically commemorative style. Almost immediately, the post veers into different thematic and rhetorical territory.

Leah’s prompt thematic shift indicates this page will provide a channel through which she “sets the record straight,” both for herself and Rehtaeh. After her November 11, 2011 rape, Rehtaeh was widely taunted as a “SLUT,” rather than being supported as a victim of assault (Parsons, April 8, 2013). Rehtaeh’s reputation was repeatedly attacked for a crime that was not her own, and Leah felt ignored, silenced, and/or maligned by her community, the police, medical institutions, and the justice system as she tried to get help and/or seek justice for her daughter’s rape, then death (Parsons, pers. comm.). Although Leah went to the police after Rehtaeh’s assault, for example, the police did not confiscate the accused’s phones or interview them. Law enforcement officers told Leah that the photograph the rapists sent around as well as the bullying Rehtaeh faced was a “community” issue that they could do nothing about (Fleeman 2013). Further, after the rape, Rehtaeh dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts, and admitted herself to hospital. There, after she became upset one evening, she was stripped by hospital guards and held in isolation for twenty-four hours (Parsons, pers. comm.). She was eventually released from the hospital on the condition that she attend outpatient group therapy, but was placed in a session meant for drug addicts, not those who have experienced sexual assault, and in which there was a boy she knew from the school at which she had been intensely bullied (Rau 2015). These actions show profound insensitivity and/or disregard for Rehtaeh’s circumstances and well-being.

Additionally, when Leah tried to address Rehtaeh’s bullying with her school’s administration, Leah was told that Rehtaeh–rather than the rapists or those circulating her images–should change schools to minimize disruption. As Leah notes, “nobody was taking me seriously,” and Rehtaeh, rather than the rapists, seemed to be taking the blame (Parsons, pers. comm.). Rehtaeh and Leah felt silenced, ignored, and mistreated by the people and institutions that were supposed to help.

The Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page permits Leah, unheard during Rehtaeh’s ordeal, to tell her version of what happened. Through this channel, she actively contradicts rape culture- based narratives about Rehtaeh and presents her own “corrected” version instead. In the opening post, Leah explains that, after Rehtaeh was raped, “[b]ecause the boys already had a ‘slut’ story, the victim of the rape, Rehtaeh, was considered a SLUT” (Parsons, April 8, 2013). After identifying this corruptive–and frankly, all too common–slut-shaming narrative, Leah counters it, asserting, “Again, she was the one raped […] she was the victim being victimized over and over” (Parsons, April 8, 2013). Leah also addresses the issue of Rehtaeh’s suicide, stating that “to stop any rumours from spreading […] She acted on an impulse but I truly in my heart of heart do not feel she meant to kill herself” (Parsons, April 8, 2013).

In Leah’s above-noted reframing of Rehtaeh’s sexual assault, Leah refers explicitly to the rapists’ “story,” and does so in a statement that she pins as the official “Story”–with a capital “S”–on her page (Parsons, April 8, 2013). She literally and symbolically challenges and replaces the rapists’ narrative with her own, which she insists should reign as the dominant version. Leah’s immediate turn to “explaining” in the opening post, as well as the prominence and length of this explanation, suggests that this statement and the SNS memorial to which it is posted–although ostensibly created “to celebrate the Rehtaeh we knew and loved” (Parsons, April 8, 2013)–prioritizes getting Rehtaeh’s and Leah’s versions of the story “out there” and posthumously clearing Rehtaeh’s name and reputation. While classic memorializing idealizes the dead (McNeill 2004), Leah first strives to exorcize harmful rape culture-based narratives about Rehtaeh, then replaces them with her own more positive versions.

After eradicating false conceptions of Rehtaeh, Leah reminds visitors of who Rehtaeh was. As previously mentioned, while Leah opens her post by briefly describing Rehtaeh as a “smart, beautiful” girl who was “full of life with a deep compassion for animals” (Parsons, April 8, 2013), this first sentence’s presence appears to exist primarily to introduce Rehtaeh topically, or for convention’s sake. Leah really only focuses on portraying who Rehtaeh was–typically a major and sustained attribute of death writing–much later in the post, where she presents Rehtaeh as someone who was genuine and who disliked hypocrisy (“One of Rae’s pet peeves was that when someone passed away, suddenly they were liked and people cared”), who “stood up for others, showed compassion to animals and people,” and who “was an amazing artist” (Parsons, April 8, 2013). After debunking the formerly discussed stereotypes people ascribed to Rehtaeh, Leah offers a more nuanced and sympathetic vision of her daughter. The opening post and the page it graces reveal a complex exercise of “false” or “imposed” identity erasure, followed by identity re-establishment in a kinder light. SNS memorials, then, are sites in which competing narratives about the deceased’s identity can be (re)negotiated, and where the site’s administrator has ultimate narrative power to determine who the deceased “was.”2 No doubt this offers some sense of control to mourning parents, who feel chaotically adrift in their newly childless world. More specifically, for parents dealing with a child’s loss following sexual assault, Facebook can offer a medium through which the appendages of rape culture–the myths, stereotypes, biased judgements, and reputational attacks–can be vociferously challenged.

It is interesting to consider that the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page–which bears Rehtaeh’s name, profile picture, and biographical details–may in some way embody Rehtaeh, and, in doing so, provide avenues for wish fulfillment for Leah. In life, Rehtaeh’s body was violated. In death, Leah protects Rehtaeh’s new cyberspace entity, “Angel Rehtaeh,” and ensures it remains untarnished. Leah states in the pinned Story that this page is reserved for people who “knew and loved” Rehtaeh (Parsons, April 8, 2013). Then, directly addressing the “people who bullied [Rehtaeh], talked about her, put negative statuses about her over the past year, and sent awful messages to be on this page,” Leah demands, “if you were one that felt it OK to bully someone in so much pain–STAY AWAY.” Additionally, a “NOTE” at the bottom requests that page visitors “please respect the family’s wishes and DO NOT publish the names of the four rapists on this page” (Parsons, April 8, 2013). While this request may have had some legal underpinnings, Leah makes it clear that anyone who hurt Rehtaeh in life is not welcome to defile her digital remains by posting hurtful messages like the ones she endured in life, or to even come near the page. The “rapists,” who forcibly penetrated Rehtaeh and helped ruin her reputation during her lifetime (Parsons, April 8, 2013), are especially barred from accessing or tarnishing her digital body: in fact, the mere inscription of their names on the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page is prohibited. This SNS memorial permits Leah to re-constitute her lost daughter and police her body and well-being in cyberspace, in a way that Leah was unable to do during Rehtaeh’s life. While the agency this page gives Leah in terms of digitally resurrecting Rehtaeh and protecting her online remains cannot bring this girl to life again, it may offer Leah some benefit: notably, the ability to articulate and police her personal boundaries, as well as her daughter’s, posthumously, thus affording Leah some measure of control over her tragically upended world.

In addition to clearing Rehtaeh’s reputation and protecting her digital “body” from further abuse, Leah castigates those who hurt her daughter through the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page. Leah calls out the “four young males,” one of whom “took a photo of [Rehtaeh] being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community” (Parsons, April 8, 2013). She also states to “the people who bullied [Rehtaeh], talked about her, put negative statuses about her over the past year, and sent awful messages” to be posted to the site, “I know who you are,” before closing with the most condemning statement of the post:

Rehtaeh is gone today because of [t]he four boys that thought that raping a 15 yr old girl was OK and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun. Secondly, [a]ll the bullying and messaging and harassment that never let up are also to blame. Lastly, the justice system failed her. Those are the people that took the life of my beautiful girl…When Rehtaeh was born I dedicated everything to her and promised her the world. Others in this world took that away. (Parsons, April 8, 2013)

Leah lets those who harmed Rehtaeh, notably her rapists and bullies, know that, while they may not have been punished by Canada’s law enforcement or judicial bodies–both of which Leah also directly blames–she will not forget their actions (Parsons, April 8, 2013). In fact, in the face of the police and justice system’s perceived failures, she uses this SNS to pronounce Rehtaeh’s tormentors’ guilt clearly, publicly and broadly, albeit informally and through extra-state measures.

Expressing feelings and healthfully communicating anger are promulgators of health and mental well-being (Sood 2013, 253). The Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page provides a cathartic conduit through which Leah conveys her anger and expresses negative emotions such as frustration and blame. Sofka (2009), Carroll and Landry (2010), Hieftje (2012), Roberts (2012), and Pawelezyk (2013) correctly assert that SNS memorials allow mourners a means of healthful emotional release. They also assert, however, that these memorials offer mourners the chance to better “understand” their loss. On this latter point, the function of the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page differs: While Leah certainly uses it for self-expression, she already has a firm grasp of what led to Rehtaeh’s death and how she feels about the people who caused it. The Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page is a channel for emotional release, yes, but also for promoting accountability on individual, community and institutional levels, especially in the face of justice system and policing oversights. Although Leah acknowledges that social media can be damaging, she notes: “It can also give you a platform to speak out and reach a lot of people about social injustices that need to change” (Parsons, pers. comm.).

Responses to the Opening Post

Turning my focus from Leah’s opening post to the plethora of responses it generated, the Netvizz data shows that Leah’s opening commentary generated an incredible number of “Likes”(15,262), comments (6,589) and “Shares” (3,963) (Netvizz, April 6, 2017). While these significant numbers infer that Leah received support from page visitors, this fact is emphasized by the quality of the messages she received. Examining the 31 posts visitors made the day the opening statement appeared reveals kindness and well-wishing rather than cruelty. Most frequently (11/31), people offer variations of “Rest in Peace” (e.g. “RIP,” or “Rest in Paradise”), express sadness (31 out of 31 messages), liken Rehtaeh to an angel (10/31) or call her “beautiful” (10/31) (Users 352788434820904 and 352740748159006, April 8, 2013). Examples of these posts include, “I didn’t know her but as a parent I am heart broken [sic]. RIP Angel!!!” (User 352761748156906, April 8, 2013), and, conveyed in more religious terms, “Thoughts and prayers going out to you and your family. These things should never have to happen. No one should have to endure the things she had gone through. Rest in peace” (User 352753298157751, April 8, 2013).

In addition to offering condolences, a third of the responses (10/31) echo Leah’s condemnation of the justice system and/or call for the punishment of Rehtaeh’s rapists. User 52782181488196 states, for example, “I still hope the boys get what they deserve,” while User 352788624820885 says, “I hope and pray that one of those days things will be repaid to those who ruined a precious life” (April 8, 2013). In “This Time it is Different: Social Media, Networked Activism, and the Long Cycle of Dissent,” Daniel Drache (2013) refers to social media as a “megaphone” that allows dissenters’ voices to be amplified and proliferated in ways that far exceed former generations’ expectations (11). In Leah’s case, social media served as a similar “megaphone” for her feelings of maternal loss and anger. And people heard her call and responded in kind. Visitors to the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page responded to Leah immediately with words of love, support, care and concern, and, most importantly, affirmation. People offered Leah what she calls out for in her opening post, and what she appears to have needed badly: positive, not cruel, words about Rehtaeh, and blame re-apportioned to the people–the rapists and bullies–who hurt and/or failed this girl. Both the quality and quantity of responses generated by her opening message indicate just how powerful and clear a voice this memorial page gave Leah and suggest its potential uses as a channel through which frustrated and hurting mourners might “vent” their emotions and secure support.

Support Through the April 8-15 Period

The support explored above did not end with Leah’s first post. It continued throughout the week. The previously mentioned Netvizz statistics, which indicate her posts over the April 8 to 15, 2013 period garnered 50,254 “Likes” and 11,013 “Shares”–“Likes” and “Shares” being tacit indicators of Facebook users’ support–as well as 4,650 posts and 11,307 comments from visitors, quantify this support (Netvizz, April 6, 2017).

Looking more closely at 40 of the 4,619 remaining visitors’ posts from this week (one of every 100 posts other than those already examined from April 8), 23 express condolences and/or sadness for Rehtaeh’s loss, 12 suggest the “rapists” should be held responsible or punished, and 10, that the justice system needs an overhaul. Rehtaeh is once again frequently referred to as “beautiful” (7) and/or an “angel” (7), and visitors commonly express their hope that she will “Rest in Peace” (7) (Netvizz, April 6, 2017).

In the “Other” category of posts, where posts do not fit the common themes above, people write Rehtaeh poetry, express a desire to have been able to protect her by “sending her power and advices [sic] to dodge attacks,” or provide links to a Facebook site that combats bullying by fostering related discussion in a positive online space (Users 353355771430837 and 352644484835299, April 10, 2013). Another parent of a teen who died by suicide also commiserates with Leah (User 352644484835299, April 10, 2013). While no public Facebook site would be complete without a few unintelligible or strange comments, the only message in this sample that fits this category contains two lines of keyboard symbols (e.g. “ΑÎ1ωÎ1⁄2ίˉα Ï…”) rather than words (User 353268394772908, April 10, 2013). There is nothing evidently malicious about these symbols, however, and they may even be interpreted as a non-Western Facebook user’s inability to make sense of Rehtaeh’s experience (e.g. Western keyboard symbol groupings such as “@*%!&$” are sometimes used to indicate the typist’s astonishment, or to stand in for an expletive).

Of importance is the fact that these April 8 to 15 responses indicate this Facebook memorial permitted Leah to “be heard.” The fact that her words reached, were acknowledged by, and resonated with others is evident in both the number of responses Leah received, and the fact that the visitors’ posts echo her words. As discussed, Leah strongly articulated her desire that Rehtaeh be remembered in positive ways rather than as the bullies represented her, for the justice system to be overhauled, and for responsibility to be doled out to her rapists and tormentors. The examined visitors’ posts indicate that people overwhelmingly heard and fulfilled Leah’s request: in large numbers, site visitors repeat Leah’s accusations and honour Rehtaeh as the beautiful and kind girl Leah knew.

Of course, it is interesting to note that, while the compliments afforded Rehtaeh, who is presented as “beautiful,” “precious,” and “angelic” (Netvizz, April 6, 2017), are kindly meant, they are traditionally feminine and idealized. Rehtaeh is presented as the millennia-old feminine ideal: “The Angel in the House” famously extolled by Coventry Patmore in his eponymous 1854 poem, or the “femme mourante”–a typecast that evokes sweet, innocent, self- effacing, angelic and victimized femininity, and that is the polarized opposite of the “femme fatale” (e.g. whore and temptress) typecast (Showalter 1977; Little 2006; Andres 2005). These polarized and typecast representations of femininity reverberate throughout Western art and literature, appearing again and again as tragic chaste heroines and Madonnas on the one hand, or fallen Eves and Circes-like witches on the other (Andres 2005; Little 2006). So, while visitors have indeed joined Leah in refusing to allow the slut-shaming and victim blaming that Rehtaeh faced in life to cling to her posthumously, they have countered one polarized and unrealistic representation of her (“Whore”) with another (“Angel”). While the rapists and bullies tormented Rehtaeh as a whore for perceived unfeminine or culturally unacceptable forms of sexual engagement (e.g. outside of marriage or a relationship, regardless of whether the sex was consensual), her well-wishers attempt to help by recasting her as the virgin. Thus, in the well- intended responses of visitors, we see Rehtaeh, in death, yet again held hostage by unrealistic expectations and stereotypes of girls and women. Such responses reveal the continued existence, and cultural prevalence and power, of the virgin/whore dichotomy in conceptions of femininity. In an ideal world, we would finally eradicate and fully avoid these typecasts that continue to put immense pressure on girls and women to present themselves as chaste and proper, or risk intensive castigation and societal censure.

The breadth and depth of support Leah received, although tinged by our culture’s deeply entrenched and conflicted ideas about femininity, is further emphasized by the fact that the above-mentioned responses came not only from Canadians, but from Facebook users worldwide. Posts from April 8 to 15, 2013 appear in many languages and from people in many countries. Poster 353355771430837 writes, for example, “I read now the story at a Hungarian site. I’m sorry that there are so spiritless people [sic] who can do this,” while User 353373568095724 states, “I will pray for your family! Sorry about my English!” and signs off “Leiliano Reis from Brazil” (April 10, 2013). Poster 353043598128721 writes in German, a translation of which reads, “Sad, sad […] I did not know you but it hurts me badly to see something like this happen” (April 9, 2013). Leah, quite literally, found a world of support at her fingertips during this fraught week. Sympathy, solidarity and support was extended to her across community, regional, national and international borders. Rentschler (2014) defines response-ability as “the capacity to collectively respond to sexual violence and its cultures of racial, gendered and sexuality harassment […] based in networks of media production and distribution” (68). In the abundant responses Leah received in response to Rehtaeh’s suicide, it can be said that Leah’s use of the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons SNS memorial medium both evidenced “response-ability” (68), and powerfully spurred the same–not just from other feminists, but from people in general around the world, who became aware not only of Rehtaeh’s tragic loss, but also of the rape culture that contributed to it. While feminist media scholars consider feminist response-ability amongst teens and young women (Rentschler 2014; Keller, Mendes and Ringrose 2016; Sills et al. 2016; Powell 2015), however, Leah’s Facebook use demonstrates that social media, and SNS memorials specifically, can be dynamically engaged by older women and mourning parents to expose rape culture and its harms on a truly international scale, and to invite others to do the same.

Leah’s own appreciative posts from this period indicate that she indeed benefited from the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons community’s support. For example, on April 10, 2013 Leah writes, “I do want to thank everyone again for their kindness” and “words of support.” On April 13, 2013 she acknowledges the international scope of the posts the page received, noting, “The outpouring of support globally has been a very positive and uplifting experience”. She also offers words of appreciation for the photos of Rehtaeh posted by friends and family, and for “beautiful tribute[s] to my girl” that someone posted (April 15, 2017). By creating and engaging with this Facebook memorial in the wake of Rehtaeh’s death, Leah surrounded herself with an extensive and highly supportive network of well-wishers, as well as people who were willing to engage in the memorializing and meaning-making process with her by contributing their own photos, tributes, and posts of remembrance of Rehtaeh. Leah’s words of thanks reveal that this page offered her solace during an extremely dark time, and that SNS memorializing proffers some benefits to parents mourning tragic loss.

Leah’s Posts Through the April 8-15 Period

We have discussed the support shown by Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page visitors during the week following Rehtaeh’s death. But how did Leah employ the site through this period? Did her posting style remain consistent after her opening post? What changed? Surveying Leah’s 41 (far less lengthy) posts from the April 8 to 15, 2013 period indicates that after the cathartic purgation of intense emotions, such as anger, pain, disbelief and love, in the opening post, Leah turned her focus more to mourning and remembering. The Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page settled more conventionally into being a space for online grieving and remembrance. Of Leah’s 41 April 8 to 15 posts, 16 commemorate Rehtaeh. For example, Leah posts a photo of Rehtaeh to a site album, as well as tribute videos in which revolving images of Rehtaeh as a baby, early adolescent, then teen are set to the song “In the Arms of the Angel,” by Canadian singer and songwriter Sarah McLaughlin (Post 352844711481943, April 9, 2013; Post 433500253407097, April 8, 2013).

Interestingly, while most of these memorializing posts are the product of Leah uploading memories of Rehtaeh, visitors who appear to be known to the family, as mentioned above, contribute memories as well. Church (2012) and Hieftje (2012) note that SNS grieving creates a community of mourners, while Brubaker, Hayes and Dourish (2013) note that “post-mortem SNS profiles are techno-spiritual spaces in which identities of the deceased are intersubjectively produced by the contributions of SNS Friends” (154). Indeed, in addition to offering Leah outpourings of solidarity, we see that keeping Rehtaeh’s memory alive on Facebook unites visitors with Leah in a process of active memory co-production. SNS memorializing on the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page is a networked and collaborative effort. The Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page serves as a type of central repository, where people contribute their photos, memorial videos, and words of remembrance regarding Rehtaeh. In doing so, visitors help Leah–and the site’s users in general–achieve a “whole” Angel Rehtaeh. When we consider that human memories can fade, and that even the pain of loss gradually loses its sharpest edges over time, SNS memorials help loved ones combat the subtle fragmentation and fading that a loved one’s identity suffers after death.

I would like to add, however, that this networked co-constitution of Rehtaeh through visitor-contributed “memories” remains firmly under Leah’s control: Leah, as the site’s creator and administrator, has ultimate power to accept or veto “memories” attributed to Rehtaeh. Again, returning to the notion that the ability to establish and maintain boundaries and personal control contributes to one’s sense of well-being and health (Sood 2013), Leah’s representational control in the role as site administrator may be beneficial to her healing process, and to feeling that, at least in death, Rehtaeh’s identity and reputation may remain inviolable via this Facebook page.

We have discussed the fact that Leah’s degree of memorializing rose after her explosive opening post. This, however, does not mean her need to allocate responsibility for Rehtaeh’s death was expunged. Instead, in her April 8 to 15, 2013 posts, this allocation was achieved in more implicit ways. Altogether, 16 of Leah’s posts during this period question the police, the justice system, or infer that sexual assault and/or bullying are issues that require societal redress. Rather than being articulated as directly, overtly or angrily as in her opening post, this questioning is carried out through a form of memorial site-based “produsage”–a term Laurie McNeill and John Zuern (2015) use to describe Internet “authors’” collection and reissuing, or “Sharing,” of others’ pre-existing online content, in order create their own online persona and/or content (xxiv).

Instead of posting explicit comments or criticism on the site, Leah wordlessly shares online content that implies her stance. For example, she posts links to articles that critique the investigative, judicial, bullying, and rape culture-related “issues” surrounding Rehtaeh’s death without further commentary of her own. On April 9th, 2013 she posts a Chronicle Herald article, “Who Failed Rehtaeh Parsons?” (Ross 2013). In this article, Leah, who is interviewed, articulates that she is “unhappy with what she saw of the investigation” (Ross 2013) and criticizes the fact investigators told her this was not a criminal issue, “[e]ven though [Rehtaeh] was 15 at the time, which is child pornography” (quoted in Ross 2013). A day later, she posts “School Administration Didn’t Probe Incident,” an article that opens with the condemning sentence, “Administration at Rehtaeh Parsons’s school knew of the allegations that she was raped by four boys but did not step in to question those involved or address bullying” (Willick and Colley 2013). On April 10 she posts yet another link, this time to a People.com article. Its tagline, which appears on the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page along with the article’s featured image, reads, “Rehtaeh Parsons hung herself after four boys allegedly raped her and weren’t charged” (Fleeman 2013). In the previously discussed opening post, Leah blasted page visitors with an epic statement that blatantly externalized her anger. The subsequent shift in Leah’s posting style does not indicate that she has given up fighting for justice for Rehtaeh. Rather, having “set the record straight” and articulated barriers against digital intrusion, or participation, by the bullies, rapists, and other “bad” entities, she has migrated the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page towards a slightly more standard SNS memorial format–and has found other avenues for explicit advocacy, notably, in being interviewed for newspapers and broadcast media. With the early “heavy work” of clearing Rehtaeh’s reputation and name, and expressing Leah’s anger and desire to blame, achieved, Leah could focus her engagement with this page more on honouring her lost child. But, as she notes in an April 12 post–where she writes that the page visitors’ “kindness” is “truly giving [her] strength” to achieve “justice for [Rehtaeh] and change for the future”–her fight for justice and to call the perpetrators to account is only just beginning elsewhere. And it is powered at least in part by the support she finds on the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page (Post 353807358052345, April 12, 2013).

Facebook Memorials as Anti-Rape Platforms: Checking Cyber-Utopianism

Nevertheless, some negative comments were submitted or posted to the page. As Leah notes in the opening post, a few people “sent awful messages to be on this page” (April 8, 2013). Later, in an April 13 post, an administrator for the site, Sonya, comments that a separate website has been set up to mock Rehtaeh and that people should report it to the police. While most trolling appears to be occurring on sites other than the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page, Sonya still notes that she is “monitoring this [p]age to ensure any inappropriate content is removed and abusive users are banned” (Post ID 354337161332698, April 13, 2013).

Trolling behaviours can mar the commemorative aspect of SNS memorials in general, and those dedicated to girls who have become iconic in the fight against rape culture and VAWG are particularly vulnerable to graphic and malicious cyber-hate (Harris 2014). In fact, a fake Facebook page, Rehtaeh Dead Parsons, was created after Rehtaeh’s death by one of the alleged rapists’ sisters, displaying photoshopped pictures of Rehtaeh with blood dripping from her body and a noose around her neck, while BC teen Amanda Todd’s Facebook memorial was ruined by online trolls (Parsons, pers. comm.; Harris 2014). Such desecration is undoubtedly upsetting and destructive for mourning parents.

Yet, as both Leah and Sonya note, Facebook site administrators have the ultimate power to delete such negativity and ban users (April 8, 2013; Post ID 354337161332698, April 13, 2013). This, added to the fact that the amount of incoming positive support on SNS memorials can be extensive, demonstrates that pages like Angel Rehtaeh can be positive spaces for expression and remembering nonetheless. Parents who wish to mourn a child and/or challenge a societal ill that led to their death–and especially an inflammatory social scourge, such as recent national discussions of sexual assault have highlighted it to be–would do well to follow Leah’s approach in appointing “arm’s length” administrators to remove hurtful and offensive materials, rather than subjecting themselves to reading trolling content that is intended to hurt. As Leah acknowledges, “the Facebook Page was an enormous help in my darkest moments. I had people from around the world raising me up” (Parsons, pers. comm.).


Leah Parsons’s Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page is not your average SNS memorial. While it bears similarities with standard SNS memorials in the venue it provides for commemorating, honouring, and mourning Rehtaeh, and expressing emotion and allowing the formation of a united group of mourners (McNeill 2004; Church 2013), a number of clues in the “About” and “Story” sections alert readers that the cause of Rehtaeh’s death will be just as much a focus of this Facebook memorial as Rehtaeh herself.

Indeed, beyond memorializing, the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page plays a number of unique and beneficial roles. Leah uses this site to annihilate false and negative rumours and identities attributed to Rehtaeh, and to reallocate blame for Rehtaeh’s rape and death on her rapists and bullies, as well as the systems (police, medical and justice) Leah feels are responsible for her daughter’s death. After clearing Rehtaeh’s reputation and exorcizing false narratives and stereotypes, both of which are reputationally hazardous products of rape culture for many survivors/victims, Leah presents a new and positive representation of Rehtaeh to fill the identity “gap” that remains. Interestingly, participants in the Angel Rehtaeh community actively contribute to this recreation of “digital Rehtaeh”: Their posting of photos, videos and anecdotes about Rehtaeh help Leah reconstitute her lost daughter in the digital realm (Brubaker, Hayes and Dourish 2013).

In addition to the intense renegotiation of Rehtaeh’s identity that takes place on the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page, this SNS memorial permits a measure of wish fulfillment for Leah: It is a space in which she articulates clear boundaries about how Rehtaeh’s memory should be formulated and treated, and in which she polices the integrity of Rehtaeh’s post- mortem digital “body,” ensuring it remains inviolable in death. Leah, as site administrator, however, has ultimate control of Rehtaeh’s online reconstitution.

While the reality of SNS memorials is that they provide opportunities for uninvited “strangers” to witness the bereaved’s mourning, and for trolls, the Facebook interface permits the deletion of negative messages and banning of abusive users, and thus affords page creators and administrators the power to maintain the overall integrity of a page. Parents who wish to memorialize their children on Facebook, and who may be subjected to the virulent online trolling and abuse that discussions of sexual assault and rape culture engender, may strongly benefit from having trusted supporters act as page co-administrators, or “censors”, ridding the page of upsetting materials prior to the parents’ use. Fortunately, however, as the many posts made by unknown visitors to the Angel Rehtaeh site indicate, strangers, like known page visitors, have an abundance of kindness and empathy to share. Over the four years the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons page has been operational, and up to the date of my April 6, 2017 data extraction, 49,339 people from 46 different countries–from across Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Australia–have offered Leah words of care (Netvizz).


1. Leah Parsons, personal communication (December 5, 2015-March 30, 2016).

2. For a similar discussion concerning identity creation on SNS memorials, see Brubaker and Vertesi (2010) and Brubaker, Hayes and Dourish (2013). While these authors note that identity contestation occurs on memorial sites, they envision this process as one that occurs between Facebook Friends–and not as the product of a mourning mother and/or site administrator’s attempts to control identity representation.

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Data Sets

For the data sets, download a full pdf of this piece here.

*All data retrieved on April 6, 2017, from the Angel Rehtaeh Parsons public community Facebook page, using Netvizz.


Nicolette Little is a PhD candidate and media studies instructor in the University of Calgary’s Communication, Media and Film program. Her research considers gender-based violence activists’ use of various media to challenge rape culture. Nicolette advised the Federal Standing Committee on the Status of Women for its 2017 Violence Against Young Women and Girls study, and is recognized by the United Way for her initiatives to raise awareness about community violence.

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