A grown man first paid to use Trisha Baptie’s body for his sexual pleasure when she was 13 years old. That would continue for the next 15 years with no interference by anyone. She recalls being on a “date” one night, in the front seat of a man’s car. She saw him reaching under the seat for something and assumed it was his wallet. She remembers a crowbar coming through the air toward her head. The next thing she recalls is waking near a phone booth where someone was dialing 911. Then she remembers waking again, in a hospital. The first thing asked of her was, “what did you do to make him so mad?”
After escaping this horrid life in 2002, Trisha found her voice when she covered the Robert Pickton trial as a citizen journalist from her intimate knowledge of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and her perspective as a friend of Pickton’s victims. (Courts convicted Pickton of murdering six women and disposing of their bodies on his pig farm. He may have killed as many as 49 victims in total.)
For this coverage, Trisha Baptie won the “Courage to Come Back” award. In 2008, she founded Honour Consulting, a resource for education, networking, and coordinating current events around the abolition of prostitution.
Trisha tells an ancient Dene First Nations legend about some women working at the river together when they saw a baby floating in the water and rescued him. Naturally, they were astounded. But soon, they saw another and another. They continued to pull babies out of the river, dry them, warm them, and feed them. More babies came until the work became overwhelming. When one woman turned to leave, the others called her back. “What are you doing?” they called, as she walked upstream. “Come back here and help us!”
“I’m going to find out who is throwing these babies in the river and put a stop to it,” was the answer.
The point of Trisha’s story is not that prostituted women and children are helpless babies. The point is that social workers and rehabilitation professionals can only do so much. The real problem is upriver. The answer is to target the origin. “We need to stare evil in the face and say, ‘No more. Not on my watch!’” she says.
Since 1999, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland have implemented Nordic Law, which penalizes the buyers of sex while decriminalizing those being sold. Each country has seen a reduction in prostitution and sex trafficking and an increase in the stigma of buying and selling of people for sexual acts.
By contrast, in The Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, the attitude toward women in general has deteriorated. In 2010, Dutch female nurses launched a national campaign against demands for sexual services by patients who claim it should be part of their standard care. The prevailing attitude is, if prostitution is acceptable, why not extend the same expectation toward all women?
But this is not just a women’s issue. This attitude sells both men and women short. Men, you are so much more than that. I challenge you to stand against this and all forms of violence against women. Teach your sons and daughters that they are so much bigger, and this is not okay. What would happen to human trafficking if no one was buying?
If you are a man who is also a Christian, your responsibility is greater still. One of Jesus’ dearest friends was a prostituted woman he personally rescued, so you’d be in good company by doing the same. Isaiah 58:6 says this: “I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly. Free those who are abused!”
You can read Trisha Baptie’s powerful story on her website . Better yet, you can hear her (and others) in person at the Defend Dignity Forum coming to Portage la Prairie. It will be at Portage Alliance Church, 2375 Saskatchewan Ave. West on Sunday, January 27, at 6:00 p.m.
Please consider this my personal invitation to come and make a difference. Prostitution is not the world’s oldest profession. It is the world’s oldest oppression. Defend Dignity believes that together, we can end it in Canada. Let’s find out how.