Wednesday April 8, 1998


p. 14

Precious lives

Pop psychology tells us the first stage of grief is denial. When tragedy strikes, it's as evident in society at large as in individuals and bereaved families.

So it was with the tragic murders of Cheri Doucette and Isha Cleverdon, two young and lovely girls, just 15 and 16.

When the girls' brutally stabbed and stripped bodies were found in a North York industrial mall, the city, it seemed, went into denial.

Questions were raised -- first by the media, then by parents and teens everywhere. After all, we wouldn't be human if we didn't yearn for a rational answer to the screaming question, "Why?"

Were the girls hookers? Were the murders connected to the sex trade in that neighborhood? Was this the work of the serial killer already suspected in several unsolved slayings of prostitutes?

When the answers finally came that no, the girls were ordinary teens -- school dropouts, but ordinary girls -- the city shuddered.

But it wasn't so much, as author June Callwood told the Sun's Gretchen Drummie yesterday, because we think lives lost in the sex trade are of lesser value. Rather, it's because we don't want to believe that anything so horrible could happen to any one of us or those we love.

It's true, some murders attract more attention than others. There was more outcry over the recent murder of Charlene Minkowski, who was pushed in front of a subway train, than that of prostitute Donna Oglive. There was less anger over the shooting of Kapilan Palasanthiran in a Scarboro doughnut shop -- believed to be a case of teen gangs and mistaken identify -- than over the random shooting of ViVi Lemonis in a cafe. It is true, but not right.

The reason is simple denial. If we can convince ourselves such murders are because of prostitution or gangs, we can convince ourselves that our children, in their ordinary live, are safe.

We think if we can insulate them from that world, they can't be hurt. Deep down we know this is foolhardy. As Christie Blatchford wrote yesterday, all teens are vulnerable -- and think they aren't.

Those children do get hurt. Children like Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Like Marsha and Tammy Ottey, whose young faces peered out from yesterday's newspaper, too. Like Cheri Doucette and Isha Cleverdon. Their pictures remind us all that none of us is ever completely safe. And that denial is a very dangerous thing.

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Created: May 20, 1998
Last modified: May 21, 1998

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