This morning I sat in a Halifax courtroom and listened as one of the young men involved with my daughter’s case changed his plea to guilty. He is guilty of producing child pornography. He is the person who clicked the button on that cellphone, and as simply as that, he ended her life.
It’s a bittersweet moment. I’m sure some will hope our family can find some peace but the truth is that plea opens the door to some serious questions.
Why did the RCMP originally tell us the production of this image wasn’t a police matter when it was? Why did they do nothing to protect a victim of child pornography for almost two years when they knew this image was out there, who had it, and who was spreading it. Why did they arrest no one when it would have made a difference to do so? Why did the tell us it was not a police matter but rather a “community issue” when that was obviously not the case?
Why did Cole Harbour High knowingly allow child pornography to be openly distributed throughout the school and do nothing about it? This went on for months. Is that the response we want from school officials when it comes to a crime like this?
Most importantly, why would any of us think it would be different if it happened again? What measures have been taken? Are the same people in the same positions and are they going to show the same indifference to the next victim?
The children portrayed in child pornography are first victimized when they are photographed. They are further victimized each and every time that photo is accessed and shared. Stopping it as soon as possible should be a top priority. In Rehtaeh’s case it wasn’t. That can never be allowed to happen again and the people who allowed it to happen must be held accountable for it.
I’m not expecting much to come from this young man’s sentencing. He did nothing when it could have mattered. Rehtaeh would have forgiven him had he only told her he was sorry. He knew what he did. He knew what she was going through and he just didn’t care.
It’s a powerful yet sad testament if you think about it. He did the same thing the school and the police did when it would have made a difference – nothing. She may very well be here with me now if only the crimes committed against her were treated as such. If the case before the courts today was so strong it resulted in a guilty plea than who made the decision not to proceed the first time? Why did they do that? Are they still there, showing the same indifference to other victims?
I’m relieved we didn’t have to sit through a trial but I am also left with a deep sense of sadness. This cost me Rehtaeh. I lost my only child.
She deserved better.
I am grateful to Sgt. Andrew Matthews of the Halifax Police and Crown Prosecutor Alex Smith. I know they were handed a mess to clean up under a great deal of public outrage. I know in my heart they did their best.
Sentencing for the male in this case is set for November 13th at 11:00.
The trial for the second male begins November 24th.