Monday, January 10, 2011

Crawling into the Swamp: Robert William Pickton and the sex trade

Warning: Some content might be disturbing (and I am not kidding here)

Vicki here on Monday to talk about something I think about a lot.

I’m currently reading On the Farm by Stevie Cameron.

This is the story of Robert William Pickton, Canada’s most prolific (to date) serial killer. Pickton preyed for years on the prostitutes and drug addicts of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Canada’s worst neighbourhood.

He lived on the ‘farm’ in a suburb outside of Vancouver where he’d been raised. It wasn’t a farm as you think of one. He mostly bought animals for slaughter, slaughtered them on his farm, and sold the meat. His brother, who sounds just as bad as Willie, owned a bunch of minor construction businesses and did things such as remove soil from contaminated sites, and resell it as top soil to homes and garden stores. The brother, Dave, was a friend of the Hells Angels who used the farm property to ‘party’.

Not one single intact body was found of the over twenty women Pickton is believed to have murdered. Read that sentence again. Then re- read the paragraph above.

Ever wonder happens to all the carcases and waste products of the millions upon millions of animals who are slaughtered each year? I never have. Now I know. A waste reduction facility. Pickton regularly made deliveries to such a facility in Vancouver. What do they do with the waste that is reduced? You don’t wanna know.

Despite all of this the thing that I find most disturbing is the police inaction in the beginning years of Picton’s spree. Essentially, they didn’t much care. Women were disappearing from the streets of the Downtown East Side for years. Their friends, their families, social workers pleaded with the police to do something.

And they did not.

These were throwaway women. Thrown away by society. Drug addicts, prostitutes. The lowest of the low. But they were also people. Women.

With nothing else in their life other than drugs and desperation, they stood on street corners or lived in rat infested hotels where the hotel took a fee for any ‘guests’ invited up to their room.

Which brings me to the point I really want to make. WHY THE FUCK IS THERE A MARKET FOR PROSTITUTES LIKE THIS?

There would be no supply, if there wasn’t a demand.

Police will tell you there are plenty of nice cars patrolling the strolls. Men with money, probably with good jobs, wives at home. Children perhaps. Pretty little girls even, who no one would even think of touching.

But somehow it’s still seen as, if not exactly decent behaviour, nothing worth worrying about. For men to have sex with these women. Even with women who’ve obviously been coerced or girls clearly underage. Sex slavery is rampant, not only in the third world but in our supposedly civilized cities.

It has been estimated that three quarters of all the prostituted women in the United States are slaves.

Make no mistake, attempts in Canada and the U.S. to punish what is euphemistically called “Johns” have to date been weak and timid.

Slowly, too slowly, some things are changing. In a major breakthrough some jurisdictions are no longer charging underage girls with prostitution and jailing them. Imagine, too young to legally agree to sex they are being jailed for being prostitutes while the men who rape them are let off if they say they didn’t know she was underage and/or being forced into it.

In Canada not a single man has ever been charged for buying sex from a human-trafficking victim, and in 2009 a grand total of 16 men were charged with trying to obtain sex from a minor. (Statistics quoted in Globe and Mail, January 8, 2011 following a review of the book Somebody’s Daughter by Julian Sher.)

In my own feeble way I am trying to create awareness of this. I’ve written a hard-boiled novel under another name about trafficking of girls into the sex trade. It’s with my agent now. One comment we got from a major publisher: won’t touch the story line.

An excellent book on the mentality of men who use prostituted woman is found in The Johns by Victor Malarek.

1 comment:

Barbara Fradkin said...

Powerful post, Vicki. So a major publisher won't touch the storyline? I'm not surprised - might stir up controversy, risk alienating readers - but what does that say about us readers? We want to read about murder, many of us even love to read about the gore, the autopsy details and bug infestations. But we want our gore stylized, imaginary, sanitized at least of the brutal realism that lurks in our real life. We want the world to be salvageable and the good guy to win. Hard-boiled realistic stories remind us that they often don't.