The Millers are a resilient family. They are slowly putting the pieces back together.
Zach was abducted in 2006 from the Miller farm in Saskatchewan. He was beaten, forced to watch child pornography and repeatedly sexually assaulted over two days. Peter Whitmore was sentenced to life for the crimes against Miller and another boy but is now eligible for parole.
Zach fought successfully to have a publication ban of his name removed. “Everyone needs to hear my story,” he says. I remember the reaction after Zachary Miller was found alive: “How could a parent let someone arrange a play date with a stranger?” We tend to blame the victim and his family.
“I live with this guilt every day,” Zach’s mother Pam says. Zach talks about how the pain, the blame and the guilt broke them all by 2008. Today they are in a better place. Strong enough to fight for others and to give a voice to all those victims who remain silent about the abuse they have faced.
Christy Dzikowicz and the incredible folks at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection would like to see changes to the Canadian Criminal Code to allow the lifting of publication bans by victims like Miller who are now adults. “It’s important we allow those who want to come forward to allow them to tell their story,” Dzikowicz says.
The organization would also like to see other changes:
- Sentencing that properly reflects the egregious nature of the crimes and the number of victims. While the courts are gaining a better understanding of the impact of sexual offences against children, sentences are increasing only incrementally and in a manner that is often inconsistent with sentences imposed for similarly violent crimes.
- Recognizing the importance, and limitations, of risk assessments. Risk assessments are often conducted to help the court assess the degree of risk posed by an offender, determine an appropriate sentence and impose conditions that can meaningfully reduce the risk of harm coming to another child. Unfortunately, the limitations of the data upon which such risk assessment instruments are based is not always appreciated or well understood.
- Conditions imposed upon offenders need to be strictly enforced. Other conditions are often imposed in addition to jail time. These conditions are purposeful and intended to mitigate risk and reduce opportunities for re-offence. In order to prevent relapse, such conditions are extremely important and directly correlate with the effective protection of children. Breaches of such conditions can be an early warning sign of increasing risk and should therefore be taken seriously and be addressed immediately.