The girl who wanted someone to listen to her (5×8 – 4/11/13)

The death of Rehtaeh Parsons, why we can’t get enough of winter, using state money to boost business, ‘slaves’ and sandbags, and judging Minnesotans.


1) THE DEATH OF REHTAEH PARSONS

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(Photo: Facebook/ Angel Rehtaeh)

Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old high school student from Halifax, Nova Scotia, was taken off life support on Sunday, a few days after she tried to hang herself. Canadian justice officials didn’t file charges against the men who gang raped her and then took a picture to send to all of their friends.

So her mother created the Facebook page, Angel Rehteah, to tell the story.


The Person Rehtaeh once was all changed one dreaded night in November 2011. She went with a friend to another’s home. In that home she was raped by four young boys…one of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community where it quickly went viral. Because the boys already had a “slut” story, the victim of the rape Rehtaeh was considered a SLUT. This day changed the lives of our family forever. I stopped working that very day and we have all been on this journey of emotional turmoil ever since.

Rehtaeh was suddenly shunned by almost everyone she knew, the harassment was so bad she had to move out of her own community to try to start anew in Halifax. She struggled emotionally with depression and anger .Her thoughts of suicide began and fearing for her life, she placed herself in a hospital in an attempt to get help. She stayed there for almost 6weeks. The bullying continued, her friends were not supportive. She needed a friend and eventually along the way a few new friends came along and a few old friends came forward.

Rae then moved back to Dartmouth, always with the concern of what will be said about her, said to her. Again, she was the one raped…she was the victim being victimized over and over again. One year later the police conclude their investigation to state that it comes down to “he said, she said” they believed the boys raped her but the proof in a court of law was difficult to gather. The photo sent…”well Leah, that’s a community issue!” The bullying never stopped but she learned to keep her head high and surrounded herself with the ones who truly cared. I will have eternal gratitude for her friends Jenna, Dawid and Mike for the past few months. They are the ones she leaned on for strength and courage.

Just two weeks ago she stopped smoking pot, started looking for work and with the help of one of her teachers and a new therapist she was making progress. When the calming effects of the pot subsided, her feelings of anger began to re-surface and she was struggling. I will say that she has told me many times that “Mom, although I often feel like killing myself…I could never do that to you because you would be devastated.”

This past week she was having lots of mood swings and her boyfriend Mike and Jenna wore the brunt of it but Thursday April 4th she had a great day, made plans for the weekend etc. Later that evening she had an outburst, acted on that impulse and locked herself in the bathroom. And 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. By the time I broke into the bathroom it was too late. My beautiful girl had hung herself and was rushed to the hospital where she remained on life support until last night.

This page is to celebrate the Rehtaeh we knew and loved. One of Rae’s pet peeves was that when someone passed away, suddenly they were liked and people cared. She wouldn’t want people who bullied her, talked about her, put negative statuses about her over the past year, and sent awful messages to be on this page. I know who you are because everyone message was a pain we shared together, there was not much that she didn’t tell me or show me. People were so very cruel to her so if you were one that felt it ok to bully someone in so much pain -STAY AWAY. Rehtaeh is gone today because of The four boys that thought that raping a 15yr old girl was OK and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun. Secondly, All 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. Rehtaeh stood up for others, showed compassion to animals and people. She was an amazing artist .She made my life complete. When Rehtaeh was born I dedicated everything to her and promised her the world. Others in this world took that away from her.

“She wanted to be heard, she wanted someone to believe her and nobody did,” she told the CBC.

But people in high places, who wouldn’t listen to a kid who’d been raped, listened to the voices of social media, and have vowed to look at the case again.

Too late.

Writing on Slate, Emily Bazelon notes the similarity to the Steubenville, Ohio gang rape story.

“The anguish in these stories and the fact that they are so similar and seem to keep happening, in this country and over the border, should leave us with this pressing question: The malicious sexting and the slut-shaming causes serious damage and has to stop–how can we make that happen?”

Funny you should ask. BuzzFeed has some ideas today in “Awesome ways students are fighting bullying at their school.” Like this, for example:

2) PICK YOUR WEATHER POISON

We got all worked up about the idea of snow, and it was an inch of ice that got us.

Video from Sioux Falls…

There are delays at the Minneapolis St. Paul airport, more than 100 flights have been canceled, cars are in the ditches, light-rail is closed in favor of buses, and power is still out for thousands of people. In some sections of the state it could be days before power is restored, whole industries are closed in Worthington, the National Guard has been called out, and turkey vultures are dropping dead out of the sky.

Here are some pictures colleague Michael Olson has assembled.

By the way, that page, and four other weather-related stories and pictures were the four most visited page on the MPR website yesterday. The takeaway? We’re sick of winter. And we can’t enough of it.

But at least it’s doing some good… somewhere:

3) STATE MONEY FOR BUSINESS

If you’re keeping score on state aid to businesses, it’s Minnesota Vikings 1 Mayo Clinic 0. Some lawmakers at the Capitol got pretty irked by Mayo CEO’s observation that 49 other states wouldn’t mind having Mayo Clinic build a destination hospital in their states, even though they probably know it’s true. Mayo provides thousands of jobs and creates buzz for Minnesota, but the $585 million it wants for infrastructure improvements in Rochester over the next 30 years appears to be too big a pill for many legislators to swallow.

“I know it’s hard to come in here and you can’t say this about your CEO. But I’ll say it, it was a dumb thing to say. It was dumb, dumb, dumb,” Rep. John Lesch said. “This is not our first rodeo. We’ve had to weigh these kinds of considerations in the past and we look at it critically. These are taxpayer dollars.”

Ironically, last year’s legislative debate on giving the Vikings millions for a new stadium was very much pinned on the assumption — a false one, but an assumption nonetheless — that the Vikings would move to Los Angeles if the state didn’t pay. For the record, Rep. Lesch voted for that bill.

But the Mayo Clinic isn’t the only big business that’s looking for a break at the Capitol this year.

The state airplane industry — mostly Cirrus in Duluth — could get a boost from a bill that passed a House committee yesterday, by trying to get more people to fly the planes they have, or buy the ones they don’t. It would slash registration fees on aircraft – currently it’s 1 percent of the manufacturer’s list price. The tax is reduced each year over a six year period until it is 25% of the original tax or $50 – and exempt maintenance parts and labor from sales taxes. (h/t: Lisa Radzak)

That would boost the business at Cirrus and some of the state’s smaller airports.

And, it’s true that the expense of keeping an airplane — even if you don’t fly it — is prohibitive, but the committee favors another bill to replace the $3.8 million the state loses by increasing the tax on aviation fuel. The price of fuel is another of the reasons people don’t fly. Currently, a gallon of aviation gasoline is about $5.50.

All three stories today reveal a fundamental question in state policy: When does Minnesota fiscal policy boost business and how do lawmakers decide? Discuss.

4) “SLAVES” AND SANDBAGS

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(MPR Photo: Nate Minor)

Way back in 2009, I was pretty impressed by all of the young people who were chipping in to help homeowners along the Red River sandbag against the flood. If they had a “C” or better average in some cases, they got out of class to help. They’re back again this year to pitch in.

Is that “slave labor?” The Fargo Forum reports a syndicated radio host has chided Fargo for using kids to help make sandbags.

“Broadcasting from the city that has no bones about asking eighth-graders to come down to the facility and start making sandbags so the wealthy people don’t have to pay for a dike,” Ed Schultz said on his show. Schultz sees himself as the left’s Rush Limbaugh.

“Good ol’ Fargo, Nort’ Dakota. That’s how they flood fight. It’s called slave labor. Make ‘em think they’re really building character. In fact, they have to build character every spring. The college kids, I think, have figured it out. Screw you! So now they’re picking on the eighth- graders,” he said.

“Consider the source,” Fargo’s mayor responded.

5) JUDGING MINNESOTANS

Here we go with another round of “what’s the matter with you, Minnesota?”

Today’s Star Tribune letter to the editor — written by a southerner, no less — takes on the always-hot topic of whether Minnesota is welcoming. It’s not, Robert Frazier of Chaska wrote today.

I moved up here a year ago from Atlanta, where having a 20-minute conversation with strangers in line at the grocery store, waving at cars driving down your street and making newcomers feel welcome is an everyday occurrence.

It was quite the culture shock when I arrived. I can honestly say there has been only one occasion when someone came up to me, introduced himself and made me feel welcome at his workplace, and come to find out he was originally from Virginia.

When I moved into my apartment, I introduced myself to my neighbors and, to a person, the reaction was like I was trying to sell them something. There’s a nearby bar where I have stopped numerous times, and every time I walk in, it’s like the first time.

Minnesota is a stunningly beautiful state, and by no means are the people rude, pushy or aggressive, but …

“Minnesota Polite?” Sure.

“Minnesota Reserved?” Definitely.

“Minnesota Standoffish?” Absolutely.

“Minnesota Nice?” Yeah, not so much.

I’ve got one of those stories, too.

I was driving through a blinding blizzard just north of Canby on Tuesday morning. Not being able to see more than a few feet in front of the car, I stopped at the intersection of highway 67 and U.S. 75 to try to get the ice off the windshield wipers. The wind was blowing at least 40 miles per hour and there I was beating the heck out of the wipers, while sleet beat the heck out of me.

I could have done it fairly quickly if I hadn’t had to stop for two separate people — the only other people on the road — who stopped to ask, “are you OK?”

I met some nice people in Hendrix and then when I got back home Tuesday evening, there was an e-mail from one of them who had arranged for me to use a private airstrip in town to land my plane in, a car to get where I needed to go, and a lake cabin to use if I ever wanted to return. “We do this for everyone, to repay the kindnesses we get elsewhere,” he said.

I’m sure Georgia is a nice place, too, bless their heart, but as far as I know, nobody here has taken firefighters hostage, people with service dogs aren’t kicked out of stores, and teachers don’t erase students wrong answers on tests and fill in the correct ones.

Of course, that’s unfair. You can’t really judge people from a couple of anecdotes,and you certainly can’t do it from a thousand miles away. You can’t even do it within a year of moving here. You have to give it some time.

Bonus I: What hidden talents exist among your co-workers?

Bonus II: Junkyard genius’s crazy nutcracker (BBC)

Bonus III: You know who’s got a lot of class? Mariano Rivera has a lot of class. (CBS Cleveland) By mere accident, by the way, Rivera is the last baseball player to wear number 42 — Jackie Robinson’s number. The honor couldn’t have fallen on a better person.

TODAY’S QUESTION

How concerned are you about North Korean military threats?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The Supreme Court case over weather human genes can be patented.

Second hour: Couples and their money.

Third hour: Global architecture and health.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A live broadcast of a special edition of “The Takeaway,” about guns. John Hockenberry hosts a national discussion about the controversy over gun laws.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – American utopias.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - A green rock found in Morocco is unlike anything scientists have ever seen. It fell from space but its origin is a matter of debate and controversy. Could the rock be a piece of planet Mercury? At least one expert thinks so. NPR will investigate.

MPR’s Dan Olson profiles master falconer Frank Taylor of White Bear Lake.

Minneapolis Public Schools has lowered its overall suspension rate over the past few years. But district officials remain troubled about the racial imbalance seen in terms of who is being sent home for behavior problems. African Americans, for example, are more than six times more likely as whites to be suspended, and the rates for American Indians are not much better, according to data obtained by MPR News. Laura Yuen will have the story.

  • Shannon

    Take that Mr. Frazier. Nicely written Bob.

  • Mark Snyder

    On point 5, I have to raise an argument with Mr. Frazier. I am originally from Pennsylvania, and have moved to and lived in both Minnesota (for 5 years) and North Carolina (for 2 1/2 years). I felt more welcome in Minnesota than North Carolina. While the North Carolinians would introduce themselves, after that you were a D### Yankee. I have never felt as isolated as I did in North Carolina. If I could have found a job, I wouldn’t have left Minneapolis. I took the first chance I had to get out of North Carolina. In general, I also found the North Carolinians to be far ruder than Minnesotans.

    Personal anecdotes and stereotypes aside, there are definitely differences in general behavior patterns between the North and South. I believe that people from either area will find the a move to the other disorienting and the behavior of people to be “not so nice”.

  • jon

    @#3 I might be able to believe that this isn’t their first rodeo… but I also find it hard to believe that ever really won a rodeo… just attending them doesn’t make you an expert.

  • BJ

    5) JUDGING MINNESOTANS

    Yeah when I moved to Oregon I found the people pretty friendly, but not welcoming. Just glad I wasn’t from Idaho, nearly everyone in Oregon seemed to hate people from Idaho

    .

    I think xenophobia (stateophobia?) is a little bit everywhere, shared culture is a big thing. Say the name Ron Jaworski and no one in Minnesota (except Tom Scheck) will know who I am talking about.

  • Disco

    Such a joy to start my morning with a horrifying and completely awful story. Thanks.

  • MN 123

    Perhaps we need a different word to describe what was done to Ms.Rahteah and others in her situation. Bullying has a tendency to be dismissed as “kid stuff”, with a response that the victim should just “get over it” or “toughen up”. This was so much more than bullying. Beyond rape, it was an emotional assault. If the victim of such actions reacts with violence against their tormentors, they are then seen as criminals. It is only if they react to such incidents with violence against themselves, that the seriousness of the situation may be acknowledged.

    To Mr. Frazier this is not something unique to Minnesota. My family members who recently moved to Nebraska have encountered the same situation. I try to invite others who may not have a place to be for holiday dinners or other activities and most often those offers are declined. Perhaps it is me that they don’t want to be around. But I suspect that there are other reasons I cannot decipher.

  • Tim

    If the Mayo had come to the Legislature earlier, it’s very possible that they’d be getting a different reception. Unfortunately, their timing wasn’t too great and people are still smarting from the Vikings stadium battle last year.

    Sure, the Mayo has options, and really, it’s probably a better use of money than for the Vikings. But I can also see where legislators are in no mood to be threatened again. And do they do this for every business or organization that makes a similar request? While I think the Mayo’s cause is deserving, I also see where this causes a bad precedent, and thus I’m not sure what the right answer is.