I have written two posts regarding the death of Stephine Beck. They can be found here, and here. Ryczak murdered her in what he claims was self defense, and then dumped her half naked body. For this crime he received 1 day in prison plus time served. Wow, he must be a connected man, you may be thinking, but that is not the case. Beck was a prostitute, and as we all know the lives of sex trade workers are not valued. This happened in the little town of St.Catherines Ontario, Canada, but it really could have happened anywhere. Daily sex trade workers are subject to violence, and rape without any kind of police intervention. Due to the nature of their employment, society thinks that were asking for it, or that it is just a part of the job that they should accept. Rape, and violence only happens to “pure women”.
I have thought often about this case, as her body was found less than a 20 minute drive from where I live. I have wondered what I would do if I ran into this man in the course of my everyday life. I don’t feel safe knowing that there is a killer on the loose simply because he happened to kill a sex trade worker. The fact that I am not employed in that area does not make me immune from violence. How is any woman to know that tomorrow they won’t be the victim of a Ryczak attack? If we cannot have justice for Stephine Beck, then we can have no justice for all women. But for a twist of fate how many of us could be in her position. Many women in this area slip in and out of prostitution to augment the salaries they earn from the low wage service sector jobs that are available here. With the cost of living rising, and the low availability of affordable housing sometimes prostitution is the only viable option for survival. To have to pay for that decision with your life is a punishment no one deserves.
Much to my surprise many Niagara Region residents felt the same way that I did. My good friend Leslie Benson went door to door collecting signatures for a petition, to get the sentenced appealed. When she was asked why this case struck such a mighty chord for her, she responded, “I just think the decision was outrageous. I feel like we’ve made it OK for one of the most vulnerable groups in society, besides children, to be hurt,” Two rallies were held, in protest and Welland MPP Peter Kormos raised the issue in the provincial legislature. During sentencing Becks lawyer asked for two years less a day, imagine his glee when his client got off with time served plus a day. Well it seems Ryczaks euphoria will be short lived because the Ministry of the Attorney General is appealing the sentence.
According to the Chronicle Herald, ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley was quoted as saying, “The defendant has been served and the Crown will be filing its notice of appeal with the Court of Appeal in accordance with the rules.” As printed in the Toronto Sun,The short court document filed with the Court of Appeal says the trial judge “erred by imposing a manifestly unfit sentence which did not reflect the seriousness of the offence.” It says other grounds may be advised by counsel later. The relief sought is that the appeal be allowed, the sentence be set aside and a fit sentence be imposed,” the notice says.
I am elated that Beck, and her family may yet get the justice that they are due, but it is a hope that is tinged with caution. While the media has been instrumental in raising awareness of this case, it constantly makes reference to the cocaine found in Becks system, as though to explain how it is that Beck succumbed to strangulation. I have no doubt in my mind that Becks involvement in the sex trade factored into Ryczaks sentencing, however it had no bearing on the crime itself, yet the media is quick to remind us that Beck was a prostitute. There is barely a human connection made with Stephine, she is portrayed as just some used body that was dumped on the side of the road by a man that just happened to loose control. How can we ever achieve justice for Beck if her basic humanity is not recognized? She was someones daughter, she had dreams and aspirations, and to make her life all about prostitution is to deny the essence of her being. When we think of Beck what we are meant to think of is her dirty carnivorous vagina, and not her equal worth as a human being. Justice comes from validation, and I fear until we can think of Beck like a daughter, sister, friend and lover her death will never be recognized as a crime, or a grievous loss to this community. I will continue to post on this case as I become aware of updates. Despite the drugs, and the sex work, there is a Stephine Beck in everyone’s life. Does Wayne Ryczak have the right to take that life without a legitimate penalty?