'I never came back': The stories behind the sex workers of Victoria's 'stroll'
Behind the postcard-perfect images of Victoria, there’s a side of the city not featured in any tourist brochures.
The stroll, an industrial area on the outskirts of downtown Victoria, is where roughly 200 of the city’s 2,000 sex workers ply their trade.
Many of them contend with addiction, violence and homelessness.
CTV News met one worker, 26-year-old Roxy, in the winter, who said she was introduced to prostitution by her mother.
“I grew up in a home where my mother owned by an escort agency, so I grew up thinking it was okay,” she said. “I came downtown and I guess I never came back.”
For her, it’s easy money.
“A thousand dollars comes faster than an hour sometimes,” she said. “The money is very addicting. It’s very fast-paced.”
The same goes for her friend Callie, who is addicted to heroin and needs the money despite the risks.
“Years ago I had one experience, and it was an 18-year-old kid tried to strangle me to death,” she said. “That same guy I guess ended up slitting a girl’s throat in the same week.”
Roxy has only been on the streets for a few months. She said she ended up here after relapsing when her parents died – both from addiction.
She already feels the danger lurking in the dimly lit streets of the stroll, and she’s not alone – a quarter of sex workers say they’ve been attacked on the job.
“Parking in dark places, nobody else knowing that I’m in a car with a male,” she said.
A few weeks later, CTV News met Katrina, who said she was about Roxy’s age when she joined the track 30 years ago.
“Money always attracts the ugliest things, but money is what attracted me. I was always broke,” she said.
Three decades later, Katrina says she’s barely surviving.
“So when you’re on the street working and you don’t have that hope, who needs it all?”
For now, Roxy says she still has hope for a brighter future. She dreams of helping kids with autism – and reuniting with her fiancé and siblings – but already feels the pull of her new life.
“The job comes with the lifestyle of addiction. Do I want to be standing on a street corner? No, not at all,” she said. “Do I want my friends or family to see me on a street corner? No, not at all.”
But that’s where she is, like scores of others lured to the shadows by the promise of a quick fix – and tomorrows that can wait.
Tomorrow in part two of “Sex Sells,” CTV’s Robert Buffam looks at the stigma surrounding sex work, even for those who choose to do it – and enjoy it.