Bad roads and worse choices


By Rose Simpson

A few years back, a sweet, petite Ottawa girl was found hanging by a red ribbon in her apartment.

Her name was Michelle and she was only 20 years old. She came from a good family and had a wonderful circle of friends. For several years, Michelle spent nearly every day at our house, chilling with the “goonies” in the large room we set up for the boys.

Michelle was a quiet girl who seemed to get just a little more wasted than the other kids when she partied. One night, Scott drove her home in the late evening after he had found her crying on the floor of the bathroom. Clearly, Michelle had some self-esteem issues, but she was no worse than many teenaged girls.

The news of her death was shocking to us.

We learned from the boys that, after high school ended, Michelle had taken up stripping at one of the local joints and had some issues with management over drugs. She fought with her bosses just days before she was found dead.

At the time, we were all convinced that sweet little Michelle had been murdered, though her death was ruled suicide.

I visited her Facebook every day for about a year. I was troubled about the fact that the circumstances surrounding Michelle’s death were glossed over. The ribbon, to me, seemed like it could be a message. Those in the drug trade have that kind of sense of humor.

Just this week, my daughter Marissa told me about another girl, her longtime high school friend, who had taken up stripping. The girl I’ll call Jane had gone back to adult high school, wanting to become a travel agent, but something went wrong. 

I worry for Jane’s state of mind, and I worry about her safety.

I wish we could have done something. We knew these girls. They came to our house, they ate our food, they shared good memories with our kids. We took Jane to Montreal on a road trip for Marissa’s 18th birthday.  We watched Michelle graduate from high school.

Did nobody care enough to to try to stop them, to find a way to alter their path?

I was reminded of Michelle and Jane this week because of the Jessica Riopelle story. Jessica lost her life in a seedy motel beside the strip club where she worked. She was only 23-years-old and lost her life at the end of a bloody hammer.

It troubles me that so few people care about these girls. They make judgements about them without knowing that the girls who dance exotically, for money, drugs, or just to fuel male fantasies, once played basketball and dress up dolls. They have brothers and sisters, and friends who love them.

It is such a shame they will never be grow up to be wives or mothers. Or just adult children.

Instead, they found their future at the end of a red ribbon or a bloody hammer.

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