The judgmental attitudes of our society are deeply ingrained.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team’s announcement Monday of the identification of the body of a woman discovered last week in a park on the Surrey-Langley border was – given the grim circumstances and the public’s right to know – done with as much taste and discretion as possible.
The death of the woman in question is tragic fact. Her demise led to other facts about her life becoming public – that she was a sex-trade worker who was drug-dependent.
Those facts shouldn’t – by all that’s right – serve as her only epitaph.
It’s likely they will, at least in the minds of those who never knew her.
It’s likely, too, that many of us who read the story had the same unspoken reaction. A sex-trade worker – sure. Drug-dependent – of course. Body discovered in a park – naturally.
But it’s when we think like that that we show our own want of compassion. For the loss of a human life should never be rationalized or accepted as understandable or natural.
Even the terminology – “known to be living a high-risk lifestyle” – is, in itself, implicitly judgmental.
Such terminology may be derived from observation; from bitter, first-hand, pragmatic experience of those who have seen far too many similar cases. But it can never be offered as tacit justification of a violent end.
We only lately reached a point as a society when we have begun to understand that how a woman acts, or dresses or presents herself can never be seen as an excuse for a violent crime against her. We have drawn that line.
But we need to draw another line when it comes to the death of a sex-trade worker.
Instead of breathing a collective sigh of relief that the victim didn’t turn out to be a ‘normal’ suburban mother, child, sister or spouse, we should be reaffirming that, for our society, any homicide at all is unacceptable.
There is not, nor can there ever be, anyone in a just society who is written off; or viewed as disposable. To descend to that level of insensitivity is to descend to the level of a Robert Pickton – and, arguably, it’s our own prejudices that allowed him to function as long as he did.
The dead woman was a human being, and what course her life took, and why, is immaterial. By extension, she is mother, child, sister and spouse to us all.