The neighbourhood in which I live has probably the highest concentration of “low-track” prostitutes in Vancouver. One night I was walking to the corner store and, in the space of a block and a half, I walked by nine working girls.
Tonight I was walking to work around 9:45pm with one of my housemates, when I spotted what I thought to be a pile of garbage in the gutter in front of a van that was parked on the far side of the road. Then, as we got closer, I thought somebody had left an old rolled up carpet in the street. However, as we got closer still, I realised that the “rolled up carpet/pile of garbage” was actually a human body lying in the gutter, partly under the front bumper of the van.
“Hey,” I asked my housemate, “is that a woman?”
“O my gosh,” she responded, “it is.”
Because the ladies that work my neighbourhood are low-track, they are targeted by violent johns, bad dates, and people who make women “disappear.” A few years ago, the bodies of 26 working girls from my neighbourhood were found on a farm just outside of Vancouver, and every now and again another lady is found — one cut up, killed, and left in a dumpster, another strangled and left in an alleyway — but there are still around 40 working girls from the downtown eastside that are on the “missing women” list provided by the Vancouver Police.
Therefore, when I realised that there was a women lying in the gutter my first thoughts were fearful. “Victim of a bad date,” I thought. “Picked up, beaten, and dumped by the side of the road.”
Oddly enough, I had actually come across a similar situation about two weeks ago. I was (once again) walking to work when I came across a man who seemed to have fallen backwards off of a concrete barrier at the end of an empty lot. He was half on the sidewalk and completely unconscious. I was unable to revive him and, worried that he had overdosed or had a seizure, I called 911 and they sent an ambulance to check him out.
When we realised that a woman was lying in the gutter, my housemate and I ran across the street and made it to the woman at about the same time as another man who had noticed her (he was already on his cell phone with a 911 operator). There weren’t any visible marks on the parts of the woman that were exposed but she was totally unresponsive. We were able to find a faint pulse but it looked as though she had stopped breathing.
It’s interesting what goes through your mind when you’re preparing to perform CPR in this sort of situation. I didn’t have anything to protect my mouth from direct contact with her mouth and — given her appearance and where we were — I was almost certain that she was an addict and a prostitute. My mind began working pretty fast: Did she have hepatitis? Did she have herpes? What if I got one of those? Furthermore, I began to think about what it would be like for her to wake up with a strange man’s mouth on hers — especially if she had experienced violence at the hands of a john. Would she respond to me with violent self-defense? Did she have any weapons on her? A dirty needle? What if she bit me? That would increase my chances of contracting some sort of disease. When I did my CPR training, I don’t remember being confronted with questions like these.
And so, I arrive at the question: if you were in this situation, what would you do?