Her name was Chantal Robertson and she was just twenty years old when she died. Though she spent many years in the Niagara Region, at the time of her death she was living in Edmonton, home to Thomas Svekla, infamous murderer of sex trade workers.
The grizzly details of her death can be read at CTV. Neighbours heard her screaming, and fighting for her life but no one thought to call 911. It wasn't until she failed to report for work that a friend notified the authorities.
I never met Chantal, but I knew her father well. When he was having a rough day, simply mentioning his daughter was enough to bring about a change in his demeanour. He adored her, and never tired of talking about her accomplishments with a sense of pride.
I suspect that once again, as the media reports on this case what will be lost is Chantals humanity. People will not know about her father Michael, or her little brother that loved her, instead they will focus on the fact that she was a sex trade worker, as though somehow this one fact could encapsulate her young life. They will completely sensationalize the story without asking why as a society we devalue these women, why we seem to feel that their lives are worth less than others. There will no legitimate discussion of the role that the capitalist economy plays in making the sex trade a viable "choice" for young women. Chantals murder will become yet another sensationalized story which will quickly slip from the front page, to completely off the radar screen. Except for those that loved her, it will be as though she never existed.
I am tired of writing these stories. I am tired of looking into eyes that have closed upon this world, because women like Chantal are deemed disposable bodies. I am tired of repeating their names over, and over, trying in a vain to grant them a sense of humanity that the world has chosen not to bestow. Sex trade workers make up one of the most vulnerable segments of our society, and as such are treated like prey by the sick and depraved. Socially we do not weep for their loss, we do not think of the grief of their families. We treat their deaths like honour killings as way of legitimizing their murders because of their occupations. The continual slaughtering of these women is a stain upon our human conscience, and it is a blight that cannot, and should not be forgotten.
Chantal, I never met you but I am so sorry. I am sorry that your life had to come to such a tragic end. I am sorry that you never had the chance to live out your dreams, and most of all I am sorry that even in death you have not been granted the respect that is your due. Sleep well baby girl.