A week ago when the RNC held a press conference in which they identified the body found on Oxen Pond Road as 36 year old Victoria Head, a woman believed to be a sex worker, they made the curious statement that there was no threat to the general public, but that sex workers should be extra vigilant. There is so much wrong with that statement that it is hard to know where to start. The most obvious point, and one that has been made already by various groups, is that sex workers are members of the general public, and so if someone is going around murdering them, then the murderer should be considered a threat to the general public. Try to imagine for a second if a black person was found murdered in St. John’s and a police spokesperson stood at a podium and said that there was no threat to the general public but that black people in the city should be “extra vigilant”. It would rightly cause national outrage.
Regardless of who you think is or is not part of the general public, the person who killed Victoria Head should be considered a public threat. There is a killer on the loose in St. John’s. Any woman venturing out after dark should be extra vigilant until the killer is found. If you are capable of killing a sex worker you are capable of killing someone who is not a sex worker. Sex workers just happen to be particularly vulnerable but any woman who found themselves alone at night with this murderer would presumably be at great risk. Until this killer is caught is not unreasonable to view him or her as a serious threat to the public.
While I take exception with the choice of words used by the RNC, I don’t for one second doubt that they are taking this case very seriously and are working hard to find the killer. I understand that they didn’t want to create a sense of panic in the community, but I do think they would be well served to reconsider how they communicate about these types of tragedies in the future, not only for the reasons stated above but for the sake of the families of the victims. Imagine how you would feel to hear a police spokesperson say that there was no threat to the public if that was your loved one who was found in a field. In any case, what purpose does it serve to tell the public whether or not they should feel threatened? Some people are going to be worried and some people are not no matter what the police say. For all kinds of reasons the RNC would be better off just stating the facts and let people decide for themselves if they should feel threatened.