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
Year Reported Unsolved (as of Feb. 2012)
2011 276 157
2010 254 142
2009 189 100
2008 223 103
2007 264 142
2006 221 123
2005 283 164
2004 178 78
2003 176 71
2002 163 71
2001 137 61
Total 2,364 1,212

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."