I just read a fantastic essay called ” Green Screen: The Lack Of Female Road Narratives And Why It Matters” by Vanessa Veselka. One one hand, I had to smile and nod at the writer who questioned the lack of female road narratives because in so many ways she’s also describing the invisibility of whores with agency. What else is the street based sex worker but the quintessential “woman by the wayside?” Veselka introduces her piece with the shockingly large number of “Jane Does” recovered at truck rest stops and questions why the women who work at the businesses with the dumpsters where they are found never seem to recall any of these incidendents. I read between those lines with the solemn knowledge that sex commerce, either as a profession or an immediate survival tactic, is probably in the background of these stories.
Covering a fourteen-county area, I asked every senior truck-stop employee I could find about a hitchhiker found in a dumpster, but no one had ever heard of her. I broadened the scope of my questions: Had they heard of any homicides in any area truck stops over the past thirty years? They didn’t remember a thing. But what I was learning from the FBI painted a landscape of extreme violence, one that matched the world of my memory. By 2004, so many women had been found dead along the interstates that the FBI started the Highway Serial Killers Initiative to keep track of them. There were girls found in dumpsters, behind truck stop diners, off the side of the road on truck turnarounds—the national database listed over five-hundred Jane Does in or near rest areas and truck stops alone. Some of these were the very truck stops I was now passing through, and yet I couldn’t uncover even rumors of past murders. The strangeness of this crystallized when I visited a Pennsylvania truck stop where I knew for a fact that two women had been killed, one found only yards from where the woman I was speaking to worked. Still, she “had never heard of anything like that.”