Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When Love Is Not Enough

In Missing Sarah, Maggie de Vries writes a provocative and heartbreaking story about her sister, Sarah, who was one of 69 women who went missing from the Eastside of Vancouver in the 1990s. Shockingly, Sarah's DNA was discovered on Robert Pickton's farm, yet that evidence was not sufficient for the police to charge him with her murder.

A professional writer, Maggie goes back in time to give us a detailed portrait of her sister in the earlier years. A child of mixed racial descent, Sarah was adopted into a Caucasian family; she was taunted at school and mocked for her ethnicity. Although the family adored Sarah and vice versa, this devotion was not enough to surpass the pain from the racist insults that Sarah received. She became a troubled teenager, feeling that she did not belong anywhere. Sarah began to run away, and eventually felt more comfortable in group homes and in her own low-rent apartment than she did with her family.

Maggie traces Sarah's journey into drugs and prostitution. She also analyzes different factors that have decreased the safety of sex trade work. According to Maggie, between 1960 and 1974, only one prostitute was the victim of a violent death in British Columbia. From 1975 to 1980, the number increased to a total of three women. It started rising in the 90s, resulting in 24 dead sex trade workers in B.C. before the maniacal actions of Robert Pickton.

This is an important book. Not only do we get to know Sarah de Vries as a person, rather than a faceless, drug addicted prostitute, but we also get a sense of how terribly wrong it is for our hypocritical society to push sex trade workers into the deepest and darkest corners of the city where they will inevitably be easy prey for perverts and malevolent men. Policymakers as well as the general public should take heed. Sex trade workers, who are often only teenagers, need our protection.

Missing Sarah makes a strong argument for the decriminalization of drugs since many prostitutes cannot leave the job because they need to work to feed their habit. It also advocates the legalization of sex trade because this would provide the workers with a safe physical location. That way they don't have to solicit on corners and get into cars with strangers who may beat, rob, rape or kill them.

Robert Pickton is currently behind bars but there's a dangerous serial murderer stalking prostitutes in Edmonton. What are city officials there doing about it?

Sigrid Macdonald
Book Review, posted on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

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