Men Should Stand Up to Rapists, Not Befriend Them


Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh Parsons Glen Canning,

Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh Parsons Glen Canning,

Glen Canning says it’s time to stop talking about ending rape and start showing through our actions that we do not stand for sexual violence in our communities

Shame is a powerful weapon.

Shame is what sexual predators rely on. Next to alcohol it’s their preferred WMD. What were you thinking, after all, being alone, dressing like that, drinking too much, trusting too much? You should have known better. You should have known what would happen. It’s the same approach pedophiles use when they tell their victims “we’re only doing what you want.”

I was invited to speak in Ottawa recently and share my thoughts on violence against women and the role men play. There are two things I’ve learned since my daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, died last April and I began to speak at conferences and meetings. One, the audience will be almost all women, as it was in this case, and two, attempts to hurt and silence me suddenly appear when there’s anything mentioned about Rehtaeh online or in social media. She’s worm food because I’m a failure, according to one person’s post. If I don’t shut up I’ll join her, says another. Some choose words so disgusting I can’t bring myself to repeat them.

You see, according to them, Rehtaeh didn’t die from being raped and bullied, she died because I’m a bad father. I knowingly let her smoke pot, drink vodka, and raised her to be flirtatious and promiscuous. Rehtaeh wasn’t raped because someone raised their sons to be a rapists, she was raped because her father raised her to be raped.

Rapists rely on other men to excuse and justify their crimes against women. Other men who’ll laugh at their jokes, invite them to parties, play sports with them, introduce them to other women.

Almost every time her name is mentioned in the news or in an article those anonymous posters show up with their fake usernames and post all sorts of nonsense, innuendo, lies, misinformation and outright victim blaming. Rarely do they use real names and rarely are they women.

I’m not sure why some people feel a need to weigh in on issues they know little or nothing about. I reply if I can even though it’s almost always futile. Some people just have the wrong information while others are so out to lunch. I’m left wondering if they’ve read anything about this story at all. Patrick Doran of the Edmonton Men’s Movement thinks I’ve been using a “victim-card” to silence critics in the “…years since Rehtaeh’s death.

It hasn’t been a year yet, Patrick.

I try to not to get hooked. I honestly have bigger issues to deal with than a handful of forgettable trolls. It’s the people who say nothing I want to reach, the people who are shocked by this story and don’t know, or don’t realize, they have a part to play. Men mainly. Not the ones trolling rape stories; I’m talking about the good ones. Men with hearts, families, compassion, decency and a sense of virtue.

Rapists rely on other men to excuse and justify their crimes against women. Other men who’ll laugh at their jokes, invite them to parties, play sports with them, introduce them to other women. Men who’ll give them jobs, feed them, and help them blame their victims even if it’s by indifference.

Men, good men, need to stand up and do to rapists and their supporters what we do to child molesters. Imagine the difference it would make if a man who jokes about rape and always doubts victims entered a room to silence, whispers, stares, and looks of disgust from other men. That is what we need to do as men.

We need to take an honest hard look at why we befriend rapists, why we believe them, allow them, tolerate them, and help them get away with the crimes they commit. We should be confronting them, exposing them, shunning them from our homes, families, teams, and places of employment. We need to use our voices to be a part of the solution and not let our silence continue to be part of the problem.

There is a stigma attached to rape. A stigma centuries old, created by devils, used against their victims to hide awful deeds. It’s time to put that stigma where it belongs. There is no difference between a man who rapes and a man who befriends and defends him.

We need to take an honest hard look at why we befriend rapists, why we believe them, allow them, tolerate them, and help them get away with the crimes they commit.

I tried to end my talk in Ottawa on a big note but couldn’t find the right words. The message has been said many times already. It’s time to stop talking and start doing. We’re still in a place where a 16-year-old will write on Rehtaeh’s Facebook page and wonder how she couldn’t have known what happens to girls when they drink around boys. A place where young women ask what they can do to make sure they don’t get raped.

Truth is there’s nothing they can do. Women who don’t smoke pot get raped as do women who don’t drink vodka and women with amazing fathers. I hate to think what some of those posters will say to themselves if someone they love ever gets raped because according to their logic it wasn’t the rapists fault, it’s the fault of the people who love the victim.

Piece originally appeared on Huffington Post 


  1. I had a talk with my fourteen year old son very recently about consent, date rape and sexuality.
    Here is what I discovered:

    When I posted this image, a few people suggested that this need not be addressed because people should just know that rape is bad. Hmmm… Really? Hitting is bad, yet I had to teach all of my children (as little tiny boys) not to hit. Stealing is bad, yet I remember explaining to my toddlers why it’s not nice to take things that do not belong to you. Drugs are bad, and we discussed all the consequences of trying illegal substances when they were a little older. I can go on. So isn’t is also my responsibility to teach my sons about rape prevention and sexual consent? And why isn’t this addressed in school at all if they cover all of the other subjects shown in the photo I posted?


    • Thank you, Tina. I never even thought about it like that, but it is so true. We, as a society, need to change the way sexual assault, and even more importantly, the prevention of sexual assault, is addressed and dealt with. Thank you for teaching your sons about this important subject.


  2. This all came about because we just had a conversation about how people (not just teenage girlfriends, although this is how the subject came to light) often say things they DO NOT mean in order to get a reaction out of someone else. I don’t think any of us can say we’ve never done that! And after that conversation I realized I needed to go back and tell my son that there is one particular instance in which you cannot EVER assume another person is saying one thing and meaning another. We talked about trust and communication when it comes to any type of physical contact or intimacy. We talked about how people (not just girls) might THINK they want to do something intimate, then change their mind. We talked about how incredibly frustrating this might be… AND we talked about how acting on an urge/desire with someone who isn’t CLEARLY consenting is not right, is incredibly damaging, and is certainly not worth going to jail over.


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