Last month, Brad Renfro and Heath Ledger, two extremely talented actors, each died from a drug overdose.
Today Steven Wright was convicted of the murders of Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls. All of the women were killed while working as prostitutes. Like 95% of prostitutes in the U.K, they worked as prostitutes in order to fund their drug addiction.*
The pernacious nature of substance abuse is such that it affects all sectors of society. Most people know at least one person who is/was an addict. I can look at my high school year photograph and point to several people who became heroin addicts (crack had yet to reach my home town then.).
The tragedy of drug addiction is that it obliterates you. Your personality, integrity family relationships, friends, work, study. It takes over your existence and then it takes your life.
I grew up with the “Just Say No” and “Heroin Screws You Up” messages. Since then, drugs have become even cheaper and more readily available then ever before. When I was a teenager, cocaine was for the rich, now everyone can afford it every weekend.
Not everyone who experiments with drugs becomes addicted, in all honesty, many are unscathed.
However, for those who are not so fortunate, they enter the murky world of criminality and various treatment programmes of varying effectiveness and accessibility.
How can we stop people becoming addicts and if that fails, how can we treat drug addiction?
I don’t know what the solution is, just that we seem as far from it as ever.
Women working as prostitutes are frequently the victims of violence. Wright was not the first serial killer to prey on sex workers.
The media coverage throughout the case has been laudable in humanising the victims, for indeed their lives and descent into drug addiction was as tragic as their deaths.
For many people street prostitiutes fall even below the scope of pity. Sadly this means they frequently exist outside of any available help or support too.
From their tragic deaths, a dialogue has opened about why people are driven to sell their bodies and how they can be helped to leave the streets. It is to be hoped that this dialogue continues and organisations are given the funding and support they deserve.
I used to live near a red light district. At any time of the day there would be women stood waiting for customers. In good weather they wore short skirts and knee high boots, leggings or tight jeans when it was cold. Their faces spoke of what they needed the money for. Crack, heroin and unhappiness are anti beauty treatments.
I understood why these women were there, what puzzled me was who was paying for their services and why. What appeal could possible lie with these women? How could you derive pleasure from having sex with someone who is so obviously unwell? Street prostitution exists because there is a market for it. Until we understand the minds of the ‘customers’, this is unlikely to change.
There have been two further cases of the brutal murders of women this week. Both the men had prior histories of sexual violence and assault.
For an excellent analysis of these murders and the flaws in a criminal justice system, which is lamentably failing to protect women, click here: