Our hearts go out to the families and friends of Jill Lyons and Karen Nabors.
The recent, sudden deaths of these two women within the same building have prompted a public discussion about the safety of women in indoor prostitution and has further exposed the entrenched sexism that informs the way that the police response to investigating violent crimes against women, especially women in prostitution.
We know from 40 years of working with women who have experienced all forms of male violence that the “foul play” suspected when a woman is found dead in her home is likely to have been perpetrated by a violent man. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has described Jill Lyons and Karen Nabors as engaged in a “high risk lifestyle.” The grim risk that these women faced was the same risk that all women in prostitution face: the violence perpetrated by pimps and johns. Women’s exposure to this risk is not a lifestyle choice—it is a result of women’s inequality and men’s violence. The public warning to women in prostitution to “take precautions” further shifts the blame off of the men who attack women in prostitution. This warning is dangerously misguided. It places the onus on women identify and fend off potential attackers.
Daisy Kler, a collective member with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter explains: “Male violence against prostituted women is a result of women’s inequality and men’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. Our crisis work has taught us that this violence does not stop or lessen when the location changes. These two cases are frighteningly reminiscent of the murders of prostituted Vancouver women Lisa Arlene Francis, Hong Wei Yin, and Nicole Parisien, all of whom were killed as a result of being prostituted indoors. The only thing that will work to make women safe is the end of prostitution and the end of male violence against women.”