Imagine yourself in this situation: without their knowledge, your child has a sexually graphic photo taken of them. The photo fits the legal definition of child pornography and you know who took it and who is distributing it. You pass this information on to police and they open an investigation. The image ends up being shared across an entire school district. Dozens, even hundreds of people have it on their electronic devices. The police, for a year, make no attempt at all to stop it’s spread, collect evidence, take names, go to any of the schools to talk to students or teachers, and refuse to answer your most basic question – why aren’t you doing anything to help us?
The police tell you this isn’t CSI (yes, they really told us that). They tell you not to tell them how to do their job, even when it’s obvious they’re not even trying to do their job. And in the end, after a year, they close the case, tell you there’s not enough evidence (surprise), and the spreading of that image isn’t a police issue – it’s a community issue.
Believe me, when a police officer tells you a degrading and humiliating pornographic image of your child, maliciously spread across an entire school district to humiliate and hurt her, is not a police issue, you’ll know something is seriously wrong with the law in Canada.
That’s where we found ourselves and that’s why we believe something has to be done. As a parent I strongly believe in teaching children empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. That is and always will be the best way to fight crime. I also believe, just as strongly, in justice for victims and protecting the innocent. I welcome very much the news that the Government of Canada is moving ahead with legislation that will criminalize what happened to my daughter, Rehtaeh. They are also moving to give victims a voice in a justice system that is often cold, uncaring, and indifferent.
Our Government will focus on protecting the most vulnerable of all victims, our children. Recent tragic deaths, including those of Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, and Todd Loik, have shocked Canadians. Our Government will introduce legislation giving police and prosecutors new tools to effectively address cyberbullying that involves criminal invasion of privacy, intimidation and personal abuse. This legislation would create a new criminal offence prohibiting the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
We made up a list of questions and submitted it for the review now underway into how the police handled Rehtaeh’s case. Hopefully we’ll get some answers and some closure.
Looking ahead it would be nice if the justice system in Nova Scotia became something sexual assault victims can have faith in. Rehtaeh’s case most certainly shined a light through the cracks.