Ottawa sex workers fear predator

CBC News looks at the fear on Ottawa's streets through the eyes of one long-time prostitute in part one of a CBC News investigation into the search for a serial predator.

WARNING | Video contains some graphic details

One prostitute details her life on Ottawa's street and the fear that exists. 3:55

Fear is growing on Ottawa’s streets but many long-time prostitutes remain vulnerable to a serial predator because street work is their livelihood.

The CBC's Judy Trinh spoke with one woman named Angie who has spent almost half her life working the streets. Angie did not want her identity revealed.

She said she has been the victim of repeated violence from pimps and johns since she turned her first trick at 15 years old.

When she heard police had discovered a "pattern" of violent behaviour linking some of the unsolved cases of murdered prostitutes, her attitude toward her work did not change.

Sexual assault cases investigated by Ottawa police
YearReportedUnsolved (as of Feb. 2012)
2011276157
2010254142
2009189100
2008223103
2007264142
2006221123
2005283164
200417878
200317671
200216371
200113761
Total2,3641,212

She said her addictions have not allowed her to change her attitudes.

"It's my money, it's how I get my drugs," Angie told CBC News. "I'm risking my life. I might just get that one guy that's going to do worse to me, but it's the chance you take."

Angie also said she knows two other prostitutes who have been murdered, including Leeanne Lawson. Her body was found on King Edward Avenue at the beginning of September.

Angie admits fear is taking over Ottawa streets, but she refuses to speak to police about any violence or about her friend.

For her and many other street workers, the fear is based on their co-dependence on both drugs and prostitution. Angie's addiction is crack cocaine, which she both smokes and injects.

"It's very strong. It really takes over your, you know, all the things you want in life is basically taken," she said.

Police want info on 'bad dates'

Ottawa Police have encouraged prostitutes to report their "bad dates" directly to police officers, but many prostitutes do not trust the police.

A lack of trust in others started long ago for Angie, who was first adopted from India when she was a child. But Angie entered a group home when she was 12 and then started living on the streets when she was 15.

"The reason is, my brothers were having sex with me. So, you tell me if I came from a good family," she said.

"I brought myself up, they didn't bring me up."

The body of Leeann Lawson was found Sept. 2 in an alley on King Edward Avenue. Her death remains unsolved. (Alain G. Pratte/prattephoto.com)

That is when the vicious circle of drugs and prostitution began, where she needed to get high to sell her body and needed sell her body to get high.

She hoped to become clean when she was pregnant. But after having two children, who were both taken by child services, she became a prostitute and drug addict at 25 because, she said, so many around her were using.

There was no way out of prostitution, she said, as it was all around her. That mentality has not changed, even with a stern warning from outgoing Ottawa Police Chief Vern White.

"Go down to George street, you'll get a girl, go down to the Merivale area, you'll get a girl," Angie said. "There's places everywhere. You could make your own street."