The events of the last few days, along with hard work restoring the deck, and more than a couple of beers, sent me down the path of needing some time off. The topic of discussion on the social media of a friend led me to watch, “The Frozen Ground” a 2013 film about serial killer Robert Hansen.
As many serial killers have, Hansen preyed on prostitutes, whose illegal occupation keeps them moving around more than people with illegal and steady jobs. Drug abuse, alcoholism, and homelessness plagues these women, so they are perfect targets for serial killers, as well as sexual assault.
I read a book about the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, who claimed he hated women, and that above all things drove him to murder. At the same time, Ridgeway was aided and abetted by a system that pays women less than men, gives them fewer opportunities for work, and allows sexual harassment to be difficult to prove and harder to prosecute. I’ve been desperately poor in my life, worked some very shitty jobs for low pay, but no matter where I went, and what job was offered, sex for money was never anything anyone pushed me towards. A man can always find a job, for some sort of money, but a woman will always find someone willing to take advantage of her.
People consider Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers as somewhat divine, but Jefferson’s sexual relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, cannot be construed as consensual. Jefferson was intelligent enough to know the woman would not, and could not refuse him, and he knew rejection on the part of Hemings would have been inconceivable, no pun intended. This is rape, and no other word more clearly defines it.
Likewise, prostitution is not wholly consensual in a system that marginalizes women’s abilities to make a living. Making prostitution illegal guarantees that the sellers must sell lower to attract buyers who also run the risk of arrest, however slight that may be in some areas. Prostitution is a form of rape women are paid to endure, and men pay to enjoy, with many more severe consequences for the women than the men, both physically and emotionally.
Alaska, like prostitution, has a reputation for being something it isn’t, as some people look at movies like “Pretty Woman” and wonder if it’s not all like that, instead of the desperate reality of women living hand to mouth selling their bodies. Alaska, with its pristine forests and snow-covered mountaintops, also has a seedy, dirty, secret life where women are second class citizens, native women routinely go missing, and arrest for sexual assault is rare.
The scenery of “The Frozen Ground” bars no holds in its portrayal of the alcohol fueled bar scene of topless dancers and sex for money in Anchorage.
Robert Hansen confessed to murdering a young woman back in the late 70’s, and claimed she was his first. A badly decomposed body of the woman was found, and because she had no identity, she was called Eklutna Annie.
Last night, I had a disjointed, scattered and fearful dream. Dimly lit streets, dingy snow, crowds of people, and I was looking for Eklutna Annie, to tell her not to get into the car with that guy. But each turn was a new road, somewhere else, the night shifted to day, the snow was there, gone, and then back again. I never found her. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, Lilith wanted out, and so from about three in the morning on, I haven’t slept.
Gary Ridgway’s path of destruction included at least fifty women. Ted Bundy’s killing spree was equally horrible. But one of Ridgway’s victims, one of the few he buried, was a seventeen-year-old whose identity remained hidden for years. She turned out to be a runaway, who walked away from her home at age fourteen. Her parents, and family, never reported her missing. She was simply gone for three years. No one was looking for her, no one was expecting her to come back, no one thought that she might be selling her body for drugs on the street, and eventually, targeted for rape and murder.
When pretty and blonde, Gabby Petito, was murdered by her boyfriend, the nation recoiled in shock and horror. Petito was on a cross country road trip, videoing her journey with the man she loved, as her family awaited her return in Florida. She had the money to do this, her family had the money to push for justice, and in the end, her boyfriend knew he would be hunted down for this murder.
Yet this is not the case for street walkers, sex workers, and runaways. Without the social status money brings, forced to work on their backs in dangerous and degrading conditions, poor women will never see the outrage when one of their own is murdered.
Men with money and power create a world where women are sexual creatures, to be bought and paid for, used, and then discarded without the social justice those with wealth can afford.
Nothing has changed since Jefferson’s days. Slavery may not be legal anymore, but the system that once allowed that sort of thing will always find a way to continue it.