'I have a right to be named': Child pornography survivor fails to lift publication ban

What’s in a name? Everything to "Sarah." Now an adult, she wants to lift the publication ban on her case as a child pornography survivor.
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As a survivor of child pornography, a publication ban has kept her name a secret.

The woman, who The Current is calling Sarah, has been fighting for over a year to reveal her real name to the public, but according to the Criminal Code, her identity is not hers to share.

"I have a right to tell my story. I have a right to be named. This is my story," she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of."


Sarah is one of several women CBC spoke to about the Big Bite Pizza case in St. John's. About a decade ago, the pizza place's manager pleaded guilty to charges of making child pornography with six girls between the ages of 13 and 16.

The manager, Mehnad Mahmoud Shablak, was accused of hiring young girls on the street and taking them to the basement of the pizza place to direct nude and pornographic photo shoots.

Sarah believes children should be protected by a publication ban, but adult survivors should have a choice. For Sarah, it's not the only part of her healing process. It's also important for her to be an ally to other women and girls going through similar experiences.

"So people start to understand that this does happen here. This is probably happening right now and people look past it" because there's "no face to put to the stories," she said.

Double-silencing

Lawyer Monique St. Germain says refusing adult survivors the choice to reveal their identity is effectively "double-silencing" the victims.

"Once somebody is an adult and they have the information available to them to understand what they may be risking by having their name attached to it, as a society, you know, we might want to consider whether or not it's fair to them to say, 'No. We think to protect you, your name needs to be hidden," she said.

Monique St. Germain, general counsel for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, works with clients fighting to have their names lifted in their cases. (Submitted by Monique St. Germain)

St. Germain argued that victims' voices are often neglected in the criminal justice process because of its focus on the Crown and the accused.

"However, victims also have charter rights of their own — freedom of expression being one of the very important ones," she said.

Gap in the Criminal Code

The Criminal Code has a number of different publication bans, but the one pertaining to child pornography is specifically different from the others, said St. Germain. That difference comes down to one word. 

In other bans, a judge may make the order and then set out some preconditions, but in the child pornography ban it says only the judge can make the order.

Nova Scotia's attorney general declared no one would be prosecuted for breaking the publication ban in the case of Rehteah Parsons, one of the best known examples of a ban being challenged. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"What the crafters of the legislation have failed to account for is victims who don't want the ban anymore. So there actually isn't even for victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse … a process that is set out in the code that shows how they lift the ban," she said.

As more and more victims come forward and use their voices, St. Germain said, it's important to listen.

"If we don't understand how the offending happens, if we don't understand how the grooming happens from the perspective of the victims as opposed to from the perspective of the offenders .... we're never going to get in front of this," she said.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.


This segment was produced by Halifax Network Producer Mary-Catherine McIntosh and Newfoundland reporter Ryan Cooke.