She was sexually abused by her father as a child. Decades later, she's sharing her story
'I want people to know what he is, what he spent so many years trying to deny'
WARNING: This story contains details readers may find disturbing, and discusses sexual assault.
When she was a child, Mandy Wood was sexually abused by her father. More than three decades later, she's sharing her story in the hopes it can help other victims.
Wood's father, James Michael Snow, went to trial for historical sex offences in 2022. She asked the courts to remove the publication ban on the charges involving her so that she could speak publicly about what happened.
"That was very important for me. Having that secret with him feels as if there was still a connection. As if I was somehow a partner to [his crimes] because I was keeping this secret for him," Wood, now 43, told CBC News in an interview.
In cases of sexual assault, such bans are intended to protect victims by prohibiting the publication of information that could identify them publicly in relation to their case. But opting out was the only way the incest charge against Snow could be reported in the media.
For Wood, opting out was as simple as telling the victim services representative and the Crown's lawyer that she'd like her name not to be protected. But she said it's not always that straightforward, and she was prepared to petition the courts if it came to that.
Abuse started at young age
The abuse started when she was in grade primary, Wood said. It happened "dozens and dozens" of times over a five-year period.
"I want people to know what he is, what he spent so many years trying to deny," she said.
The abuse stopped when she was about 10 years old. Decades passed before she told anyone about it.
But Wood wasn't Snow's only victim.
"There were victims after me. Sometimes I feel guilty about that. But I know it's not my fault. The rational, logical side of me knows that. The only person to blame is him," she said.
"He made a conscious decision every time he chose to hurt a child."
Decision to report
Wood reported her father's sexual abuse to police in January 2021. She had been in therapy for a few years, where she had spoken about her assaults openly for the first time, she said.
"Everyone processes trauma differently…. There are victims of abuse who are so incredibly brave that they come forward immediately. And I'm in awe of those people. I really am," she said. "But for some of us, it takes a lot of time to come to terms with it."
Several factors led to her decision to finally report her assaults, Wood said. She wondered if she was emotionally strong enough to testify in court. She knew it would be hard on her family.
But most of all, she thought about her children.
"When I went to the RCMP, they were getting closer to the age that I was when the abuse began. And my daughter looks just like me. I hear it all the time. And so I would look at her and I would just see me," she said.
"I can't understand for the life of me, how he could look at someone the age of my children and do what he did. He was my father. He was supposed to protect me. He wasn't supposed to hurt me."
Long history of sexual offences
Snow, now 62, is a convicted sex offender with a lifetime ban on being around children under the age of 14, stemming from a 2003 sex assault conviction in Kentville, N.S.
He also has convictions for indecent exposure, breach of probation and supplying liquor to children under the age of 19.
Despite his convictions and their history, Wood maintained a relationship with her father until 2016. He even lived with her in the early 2000s, and walked her down the aisle at her wedding in 2010.
"It's difficult for a lot of people to understand how I could continue to have a relationship with him," she said.
"I don't really have an answer myself. The best that I can figure is it goes back to me trying to figure out how to maintain this facade of being normal."
On May 5, 2023, Snow was found guilty on 18 charges related to sexual offences involving five people between 1984 and 1998. The charges include incest, sexual interference, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation.
All of the victims were young girls at the time. Wood was one of them. The identities of the other four are still protected by a publication ban.
Wood said she would like to see more done to educate victims on publication bans and how they work. She hopes sharing her story will encourage other victims to seek the help they need, or find the courage to come forward.
Last month, the federal government introduced legislation that could make it easier for victims of sexual assault to speak out. The bill would change the Criminal Code to give them the opportunity to opt out of publication bans, rather than being automatically applied without victim input.
"Some people don't realize they can actually get in trouble by breaching the publication ban," Wood said. "I think there needs to be more of an explanation, so that victims are aware of what their options are. And I think it should be as easy as it was in my case."
If you are experiencing distress or overwhelming emotions at any time, you can call the Nova Scotia Provincial Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-888-429-8167. The Nova Scotia Provincial Crisis Service can also provide contacts for other crisis services that are available if you live outside Nova Scotia.
If you or someone you know is struggling in any way, you can call 211 or visit 211.ca. 211 offers help 24 hours a day in more than one hundred languages and will be able to connect you directly to the right services for your needs.
The Kids Help Phone is a national helpline that provides confidential support at 1-800-668-6868 or Text CONNECT to 686868.
Additional supports for across Canada are available at www.wellnesstogether.ca.