Society targets prostitutes, expert says

SFU criminologist says killers think no one will care if they kill a sex trade worker

Jodie Sinnema
CanWest News Service

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

One of Canada's leading experts on prostitution, a criminologist, says society has so stigmatized prostitutes, holding them in such low esteem, that some men feel justified in killing them.

SFU Criminology Prof. John Lowman says prostitutes have been stigmatized which makes them prey for some deviant men

"What we have done, with all of this talk about getting rid of prostitutes, is that it gives predatory, misogynistic men a rationale for doing it in a situation where they don't think too many people will care," said John Lowman, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University. "We shouldn't be talking about serial killing. We should be talking here why we're allowing this to happen to prostitutes. We've actually created a situation, a social milieu where we've invited predatory misogynistic men to go and kill prostitutes."

On July 7, a farmer found Katie Sylvia Ballentyne's body in a hayfield near the tiny community of Rollyview, Alta., about 65 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. Police say the 40-year-old led a high-risk lifestyle, not necessarily involved in the sex trade but living a transient lifestyle that may have involved drugs.

She is the fifth woman in the last 10 months whose body or remains have been found in rural communities around Edmonton. In the last 15 years, nine women's bodies have been dumped in country fields or ditches.

Lowman castigated Edmonton police and area RCMP for not setting up a formal task force -- like the one in Vancouver that is investigating the disappearance and murders of over 60 prostitutes -- to look at all nine suspicious deaths, especially the five most recent cases discovered in such a short period of time.

The investigative team is instead focusing efforts on solving Ballentyne's death, even though the RCMP hasn't ruled out the chance there may be links between some of the cases.

Police have been tight-lipped about the causes of any of the deaths. Five of the bodies were found just outside the eastern edge of Edmonton and in Elk Island Park, which is about 40 km east of the city. Two of the bodies were found within six kilometres of each other.

Like Ballentyne, the burned corpse of Edna Bernard was found in a field east of Leduc on Sept. 23, 2002.

All of the women except Ballentyne were between 20 and 30 years old and at least three of the women were petite, between five-foot-three and five-foot-five. There was obvious trauma on both the bodies of 30-year-old Monique Pitre, which was completely frozen and found south of Fort Saskatchewan, a region northeast of Edmonton, and 23-year-old Kelly Dawn Reilly, which was found at a gravel pit just east of Villeneuve, northwest of the city, on Jan. 27, 2001. The marks on Reilly's body suggested a violent struggle between her and her killer.

"What if this was nurses? What if this was policewomen?" Lowman said, adding that if these are serial killings, it's likely the work of more than one killer. "What are they doing? Have they not learned anything in the last 10 months? ... You need concentrated person-power on a case, and you send out a very important symbolic message that prostitutes deserve the same amount of protection as any other human being in Canadian society."

The Edmonton Journal

 Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

Courtesy of

The Edmonton Journal

John Lowman's
Prostitution Research Page



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Updated: August 21, 2016