Back in 2008, when I still volunteered at the Drop-In Centre, a young woman was found naked and dead in a local park. I had never met her but people I served at the drop-in knew her and grieved. It took the police more than a year to decide it was homicide. I guess because it’s common for mentally-ill, crack-addicted, part-time sex workers to end up naked and dead in a park from natural causes. I haven’t followed the details of the case closely, but they did finally arrest a man in 2010 and now his case is being tried. I have read precisely two articles in my local paper about the trial, and I am disgusted. I don’t know whether to be disgusted with the lawyers and legal system about the way the questioning is going, or whether it’s simply a matter of misogynist reporters and editors. But from the articles I can’t figure out who’s on trial: if it’s the accused, there hasn’t be a whole lot of coverage on him. It seems like it’s the victim who’s on trial, judging by the articles.
The first one is all about how mentally ill she was and how much crack she smoked and how much prostitution she did. The only mentions of the accused are how he sits quietly in the court and [politely] rises when the jury enters and exits, and how when the victim was killed, he was homeless… “on the street; he was distraught.”
The second article continues in the same vein. There is some small mention of how the accused was caught in the act of beating and sexually assaulting a prostitute in Barrie before being arrested in this case, but the bulk of the article is about the victim. How she didn’t pay the full amount for her last hit because she often waited until she got paid for sex. Whether all the sex she and a former boyfriend had was always alone and how his answer was that they never had a threesome. I’m sure that’s relevant to the case, somehow, but the way it’s being reported it’s all out of context and just ends up feeling horrible. Would they report it this way if she were still alive after the sexual assault? I thought we had laws about the relevance of a victim’s sexual history in sexual assault cases, but perhaps it goes out the window when the victim is dead. Or when she’s a crack-addicted sex worker…
It’s so discouraging to see how backwards we still are in so many ways. It’s disgusting that a human life is so disregarded. She was a person, like all of us, with flaws and grace and love. She sold roses to amorous couples. People loved her, people who have to read this trashy, disrespectful coverage. People who have to watch the system dehumanize and devalue her life over and over again. It’s sickening.