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"A single photo contains your whole life"

Dee spent hours on social media sites finding young girls. Above are just a few of the photos he left littered about the Internet.
October 12, 2013 - 8:35 AM

HOW ONE GIRL HELPED PUT CONNOR DEE AWAY

She explains how he lured her, used her, tormented her, and all the things she hopes the next girl does differently. 

VERNON - She still gets a shiver when she is reminded of him: The car he drove, having her picture taken or a Facebook request from a stranger.

Connor Dee, the man who manipulated her, blackmailed her and stalked her online for years may be in jail, but Tessa still remembers. Like the photos she once sent him, memories can't be deleted.

It’s been six years since Dee entered her life, and two since she’s been free of him. Trust is still difficult. And she fears Dee will one day find her and hurt her.

This week, the man who blackmailed Tessa (not her real name) for several years of her teenage life was sentenced in a Vernon courtroom to two more years in prison. He's already been in custody for a year and a half. Dee pleaded guilty to 13 charges including luring children via computer, making child pornography and sexual interference with a minor. Police found dozens of pornographic photos organized into folders on his cell phone.

Now Tessa is telling her story, hoping other young girls will learn from her experience and not fall into the same trap he set for her.

“If I could go back, I would go back to the day I sent that first text message to him,” Tessa says. “At that time it felt like it was just fun and games and normal experiment.”

'THAT'S WHEN I KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG'

She met Dee when she was 13. He was 24, had a car and a job. He made her feel like his one and only.

“He’d call me beautiful or pretty. Being 13 years old, I liked it. It was complimenting. I began to have, like, a crush on him,” Tessa says. “He’d call me his fiancé or his wife. He’d tell me he had my ring already.”

She knew it was wrong to have such intimate conversations with an older guy, especially one she hadn’t met in person before. Already, she felt a little ashamed, but no one had to know. It was their little secret.

“At that time it felt like it was just fun and games and normal experimenting,” she says. “I hid it from everyone.”

After several weeks of back and forth messaging, he asked for a picture of her. Happy to do so, Tessa chose one of herself smiling, but it wasn’t good enough. Dee wanted one of her “boobies." Go to the bathroom, lift up your shirt and snap a photo, he ordered. Reluctantly, she gave in.

“If I could say one thing to (young girls) I’d tell them that picture has their whole life in it,” she says.

Dee’s appetite for the photos only grew. Each conversation became a repeat of the last: Him asking for pictures, her trying to get out of it.

“They were always real plain, short and simple,” Tessa says of Dee’s messages.

He’d want close-ups or naked full body photos taken in front of a mirror. Sometimes he’d send her images with toys—commonly a stuffed frog or handcuffs—placed around his penis.

“I realized he didn’t like me for me,” Tessa says. “Deep down I knew they were just words being used to lure me in.”

While they talked on the phone occasionally, he never wanted to hear about what was going on in her life. When she was having problems at home, he wasn’t there for her to talk to.

The fun of their earlier conversations had worn off, yet Tessa continued to communicate with Dee. She even told him about a bus trip she was taking from her mom’s place to her dad’s. They decided to meet at one of the stops. When Tessa got off the bus, he was waiting. He held her in a long embrace, and when the bus was getting ready to depart, he restrained her in his arms. She tried to wriggle loose, but ended up missing her bus. Dee said he’d drive her to the next stop where she could connect with the Greyhound.

“In the car, he was speeding, and beginning to feel up my leg,” she says. “He was trying to feel up my shirt and at that point I just felt betrayed. I told him 'no' over and over. I honestly thought he was going to rape me. All I wanted was to get back on my bus and just leave.”

When she got back on the bus, it all became clear.

“That’s when I really knew something was wrong, that it was a perverted thing,” she says. “I stopped talking to him.”

NEAR SUICIDE, A CHANCE ENCOUNTER LENDS COURAGE

That’s when the blackmail really started. If she wanted out, he would make her pay with the nude photos she’d already sent him. He threatened to post them to Facebook or text them to her mother.

“I felt that it would be easier if I just kept sending them. I eventually learned not to put my head in the picture and not to take it in something I wore often. I lived in a small town,” she says.

A cross country move brought her hope. Maybe distance would sever the thread between them. But nothing changed. Their relationship was almost entirely through text messages anyway.

“There were times where I felt like killing myself over it…. It got to the point where ‘no’ became the hardest word to say,” Tessa says. “I felt like ending it would save everybody, myself mainly. An easy out.”

Like the sense of physical entrapment she felt when Dee clutched her in his arms as her bus drove off, Tessa felt like she had no escape route. She felt helpless, powerless and used.

You may have heard of Amanda Todd or Rehtaeh Parsons who dealt with similar circumstances and ended their torture by taking their own lives. Bullied, blackmailed and abused, they saw only one way out.

At times, suicide seemed like the only option for Tessa, too. But chance showed her a different path.

One day in high school, police officers spoke to her class about social media.

Be wary of strangers, they said. Never send nude photographs.

Tessa looked down at her cell phone, at her recent conversations with Dee and decided she'd had enough. She made the hardest decision of her life. She swallowed her shame, her embarrassment and told her parents. Her mom supported her, aghast only that her daughter didn't feel comfortable coming to her earlier.

And to police, with all the photos and the text messages between them and finally he was stopped. She would learn later that he repeated his pattern with at least four other young girls,  some as young as 11 and 12.

And while he is behind bars, he cannot be deleted either. Like memories. And photographs that can change a person's life.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

LINK:

Child sex offender sentenced to two more years in prison - Infotel News

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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