I was in my teens when word came that a 27-year-old relative had been found murdered.
The news reverberated through the family – particularly for her parents and siblings – as the reality sunk in that they would never see her again. The pain was also raw for friends, aunts, uncles and those cousins who had grown up with her.
She was much loved, but to the media, she was frequently referred to simply as an exotic dancer, as if that some how made her less worthy than had she been a student or in another occupation.
All of this comes to mind as the RCMP continue to search a Silver Creek farm where human remains have been found.
With the ongoing media coverage, some residents have indicated that there was an influx of visitors to the area, often getting lost because they had a wrong address.
“They were prostitutes looking for their call,” said a resident in one article.
Now there is nothing in the articles to infer that the residents or reporters were making a judgment call about the women, but unfortunately not everyone will be so kind. Some will consider the prospect of violence just part of that profession while there, unfortunately, will be others who believe the women are asking for it because of their trade or because of what they wear. It is also important to note that not all of the women missing in the North Okanagan-Shuswap were sex trade workers.
Police have confirmed the remains found on the farm belonged to 18-year-old Traci Genereaux.
The Vernon teen was involved in drugs and the sex trade, but there was so much more to her than narrow descriptions.
“In teaching her class, a poetry unit, I discovered that this young lady displayed the heart of a poet and she began to pour out words and feelings as if floodgates had opened,” said Bob Oldfield, who was vice-principal at Ellison Elementary in 2010/11.
“She gifted me a piece of her original poetry, a piece written about me, when we were both leaving the school at the end of the year, and I’ve always treasured it.”
Genereaux had a loving family.
“She was awesome. She was good hearted,” said sister Kayla.
“We were the best of friends. We did everything together.”
As the father of two young women, I can’t imagine what the Genereaux family is going through. The prospect of that special bond being severed forever has to be overwhelming.
Of course it’s human nature to make judgment calls about individuals. We all do it, including myself.
And an obvious example of this has been the recent generalizations about Vernon’s homeless — they’re on drugs, they are lazy, they are crooks. That may actually be true in some cases, but not everyone can be painted with the same brush.
Struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction doesn’t make you a bad person. Some of the homeless are actually working but can’t afford rent. On top of this, all of these people are daughters, sons, spouses, parents and friends.
The Golden Rule urges us to treat others how you want to be treated, and there is no better time than now for all of us to make that a goal to try and achieve.
Yes someone may be a prostitute, or homeless or on drugs, but they are still people, and just like us, they have challenges and aspirations. They love and are loved. They can’t be defined by basic labels.