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Wendy Babcock R.I.P.
August 11, 2011 permalink
Wendy Babcock, a CAS survivor and law student best known as an unapologetic former prostitute/sex worker, is dead. She appeared on fixcas before:  . Comments on Facebook point out that the permanent loss of her son contributed to her suicidal state of mind.
Prostitute turned Osgoode law student found dead
Wendy Babcock wore a perpetual smile. It was a defence mechanism.
“Without it, I think I’d be crying the whole time,” she said, smiling, in 2009. “I never wanted to show anyone pain, so I tried to show them normality.”
Babcock was, of course, anything but normal: A homeless teenage prostitute who became a prominent activist and then a student at York University’s prestigious Osgoode Hall Law School. Her astonishing success story inspired thousands; she spoke, unapologetically, of aspiring to become prime minister.
She was found dead in her home on Tuesday. She was 32.
A police spokesperson said there were no signs of foul play. Babcock had attempted suicide on several prior occasions, and she struggled with mental health issues even as her difficult life appeared to be improving.
Uncommonly articulate and charismatic, Babcock was an outspoken advocate for the rights of prostitutes. She founded a group which compiles information about abusive clients, advised the police special victims unit, and helped her former peers as a harm reduction worker with the organization Street Health. Former Mayor David Miller presented her with Toronto’s inaugural Public Health Champion award in 2008.
Babcock had a son she was forced to surrender when she was homeless in 2003. She spent years attempting to regain custody, or at least resume contact, and said in 2009 that she planned to devote her career to reforming the child welfare system to “make things better and more human.”
“I’ve been on the other side of the law,” she said, “and I’m still going to be working against the law as a lawyer. The whole reason why I want to be a lawyer is I because I think some of the laws are screwed up.”
Babcock said she was raised in an abusive home. She left as a preteen, began selling sex at 15, and dropped out of school at 16. She quit sex work in 2003, she said, when a colleague was murdered by a client.
After she graduated from George Brown College, a supervisor at Street Health urged her to apply to law school. She was one of only 10 students in her Osgoode class of 290 to get in without the university credits usually required.
“I’d thought about law school, I just never thought I could do it,” she said. “It would be like considering being a movie star.”
She was plagued by self-doubt, she confessed, unsure she could compete with her well-schooled classmates even though she had scored well on her LSAT. Yet she cast herself as fearless, sometimes interrupting professors to register her opinion.
When noted criminal law professor Alan Young said “prostitute” during a first-semester lecture, Babcock, sitting in the front row and taking notes on an unlined piece of paper, her hair streaked pink, nonchalantly interjected to correct him.
“Sex worker,” she said.
Young knew Babcock before she enrolled in his class: She testified in his court challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws. She told her story to high school and university students, community groups, filmmakers, and whomever else asked — or didn’t.
“She was always ready and eager to talk to people, believing anyone could change their mind. She once left the bar following cops down the street, wanting to talk to them about sex worker rights,” a group of her close friends said in an email.
“She wanted to talk to everyone, wanted to learn from everyone’s experience, and made herself available to answer any and all questions related to her cause. She never turned her advocacy and support off.”
Star readers sent Babcock about $20,000 for tuition, she said, after reading of her story in a column by Catherine Porter and in a front-page feature in 2009. An eclectic group of friends, including both professionals she met at George Brown and burlesque dancers, had also held a raunchy fundraiser for her at a Church St. club.
“I feel loved. It’s hard for me because I’m not used to feeling accepted and feeling loved or well-liked,” she said. “So it’s kind of difficult for me; I’m not quite sure how to react to it. It’s definitely one I’d like to learn how to react to, and not one that I mind.”
She was soon to begin the third year of her four-year law school program. A friend said she had been working on a memoir that was scheduled to be released upon her graduation.
Valerie Scott, a leader with the advocacy group Sex Professionals of Canada, clashed with Babcock when Babcock was a SPOC member and had not spoken to her in several years. But she called Babcock “an inspiration to sex workers everywhere,” and she said she was “reeling” from her death.
“She could’ve done so much,” Scott said.
Source: Toronto Star