Canadian teen commits suicide after alleged rape, bullying

By Paula Newton

Ottawa, Canada (CNN) -- The family of a teenager who committed suicide after she was allegedly gang-raped and bullied is urging Canadian officials to reconsider filing criminal charges.

Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old high school student from Halifax, Nova Scotia, was taken off life support on Sunday, three days after she tried to hang herself. Her family told CNN they met with Canadian justice officials on Wednesday and the officials assured them they would take a fresh look at filing charges.

The teen was bullied for more than a year after the alleged sexual assault, which happened in November 2011 when she was 15, her family said.

Authorities confirmed that a photograph allegedly showing Parsons having sex with one of the boys was circulated to friends' mobile phones and computers. As a result, her family said she developed suicidal thoughts.

She also struggled emotionally after the police investigation ended without criminal charges, her mother, Leah Parsons, wrote on her Facebook tribute page.

"Rehtaeh is gone today because of the four boys that thought that raping a 15-year-old girl was OK and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun," her mother wrote. "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."

Disseminating such a picture -- even if the sexual encounter was consensual -- is considered child pornography under Canadian law. However, a joint investigation by Royal Canadian Mounted Police and local authorities found "insufficient evidence to proceed with charges," according RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae.

"There are factors in determining other than the picture itself; ages, who sent the material, computers, so it's complex," MacRae said. "We do understand people want the answers and the big question here is why was it done or why weren't there charges and we understand that. We're not trying to deflect blame or not be accountable."

The Parsons family said they hope their story helps families going through the same pain.

Her funeral will be Saturday, her mother said.

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