Program tracks marginalized women

Ethan Baron
The Province

Sunday, August 14, 2005

She has been abducted and raped twice, beaten beyond recognition once, and now, with a violent ex-boyfriend stalking her through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, she is filling out her own missing-person report.

Fear prevents this woman from giving her name. And fear is the reason she has signed on to a new pilot project. It's a daily call-in program for marginalized women and prostitutes, designed to ensure that if one of them goes missing, a search will begin right away.

"You never know when somebody's going to grab you," says the crack-addicted woman.

Often in the past, when predators pounced, nobody noticed. Crucial to the new Self-Monitoring Program is the message it sends to potential abductors and killers. Now any woman on the street could be, in effect, bait: Take her, and the hunt will be on.

The trial of Robert Pickton, which resumes tomorrow, has done little to calm the fears of the women on Vancouver's streets. He is charged with killing 27 women linked to the Downtown Eastside sex trade. But a total of 68 women have gone missing.

"A lot of the fear is coming from that, the not knowing what happened to those women," says Lorinda Earl, organizer of the Self-Monitoring Program, a project of the Downtown Eastside-based Society for the Advancement of Marginalized Persons.

"Nobody down here thinks it was just Pickton."

Earl has been signing up five women at a time to the program, but won't disclose the number of participants because that would let a predator measure his odds.

When a woman registers, she fills out the missing-person form, has her picture taken and provides a locket of hair for a DNA sample. Staff make up a missing-

person poster, which goes into her file, along with the names of her two- to three-person "safety network."

If on any day a participant doesn't call in to the project's voicemail system by 2 p.m., staff begin contacting the safety network and may check with service-providing agencies in the area. By 8 p.m., staff make a judgment call: If the woman has in the past been reliable about checking in, they'll call the police and report her missing. If she's been less than reliable, they may wait till the next morning.

Vancouver police applauded the project.

"Any organization that helps in reducing the risk to marginalized women is something that Vancouver police would stand behind," says Const. Howard Chow.

 The Vancouver Province 2005



Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016