I have spent the past few days researching this story so I could write about it with all of the factual information I could find. After 5 days I was able to speak with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and email them. I actually researched and watched local media. I was able to contact local news reporters and received responses and I hope I did my best in weeding out the fake from what is real. Although this story brought up many emotions I wanted to know the facts and what I could do to help.I didn’t want to rush and put up a blog without even having valid information. This blog will be longer than most of my posts. You’ve been warned.
These are the facts that I’ve uncovered. Last Thursday 3/25/17 NBC’s Washington Affiliate published on their Twitter page that a dozen teens ranging from age 14 to 18 were missing. The Washington D.C. Police Department tweeted that there were 10 girls missing who were considered critical cases. The latter was retweeted by a well known personality on Twitter who added the comment and I quote, “No one is saying anything about these girls that are missing.” That tweet went viral and the story began.
I am sure we all know that when stories are carried they grow additions, people add their own pieces, exgagerrations. So…let’s talk about facts. According to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children there were from 450-500 missing children in Washington D.C. This number has been consistent since 2014. 95% of those cases have been closed. Lets talk about the term “missing.” There are children who are critically missing, children missing from care, family abduction, runaways, and long term missing. Critically missing usually means there is an elevated risk of danger. A child missing from care is one who is missing or has been abducted from the foster care system. Family abductions are missing children who have been abducted or wrongfully retained or concealed by a parent or other family member. Runaway children are missing youth who have run away from a parent, guardian or state care facility A long term missing child is a case that has remained unsolved for many years.
As of 3/27/17 there are approximately 250- 300 children missing in The Nations Capitol. No one will verify how many are African American or Hispanic and I’ve asked that question many times. Nearly 2,000 children go missing every five years. If the police department and news media had not posted this story none of us would be discussing these girls.
Washington D.C. is much like many metropolitan cities; the problems are the same. Missing teen girls is a huge problem. D.C. police have tweeted 27 photos of missing teens since starting their Twitter page. Most of them have been found. One teen who was reported missing on 3/21 was found on 3/26 and wouldn’t tell her mother where she was staying. Her name is Katherine Hunter and she has run away many times. There are issues at home. She says, “Many of her friends who run away just want out.”
Here are a few more unfortunate truths. African American and Latino girls are at more at risk of becoming abducted, runaways, and to be critically missing. Just as African Americans and Hispanics are at risk in many other areas of life. Poverty, single parent homes, and abuse are all at the top of the list as to why. Also when a Caucasian child is missing there is more media attention, especially for little girls. When a black or brown child is missing she or he is usually deemed a runaway; a child who is bad. D.C. Councilman Trayon White says, “There was a 10 yr old African American girl missing a week ago and there was no Amber Alert inacted.” He feels if this was a white child or even a child from a better neighborhood this wouldn’t have happened. Most African American girls are labeled as runaways who left home freely. Then after leaving the home they often become victims of rape, sex trafficking, and prostitution.
Now on to the fiction, there were never 14 girls, or 10 or any double digit number of girls missing in a 24 hour period. One of the girls in a few online post has been missing since 2014, her name is Relisha Rudd. There is no spike in missing girls of any race in D.C. , social media is simply being used to shine a light on the issue. Much like the Internet opens the word to things that have happened for years but were hidden. The fact is most of these girls became missing over the past month or two. Which is still scary.
There is hope in the face of despair. Mayor Muriel Bowser says her office will implement 6 new initiatives to tackle the missing person problem. They include boosting the number of officers assigned to missing person cases and expanding the local missing person website. With all of the facts and fiction being uncovered it still doesn’t negate the pain I feel. I am sad that so many girls are running away from home. What are they running from? All of these children are not just bad. Why run from heat,food, their iPhones? Some run from abuse; sexual, physical, and mental. Some parents don’t give a darn about their daughters. ” Let her go, get out of my house.” What if she runs into the arms of a manipulative pimp, some punk or the local police officer?
Just a few more truths. Two D.C. Police officers were accused of running a prostitution ring just last week. Officer Marc Washington is accused of setting up 16 year old girls with adult men for sex acts. One of the girls had been reported as missing. As many as 6 teenswere found at a SE Stanton Rd apartment.Washington was also accused of child pornography for placing the girls pictures on the website backpage. He also had a mirror in the home with the names of young girls on it. The other officer’s name has not been released.
There are so many layers to this devastating issue. When you break this down whether you believe the facts or the social media sensation, black and Latino girls are endangered. Some are being hurt in the homes of their own families and they run away searching for something. Others are betrayed by officers who have sworn to uphold the law. They are accosted by people who prey on them with promises of money only to rip away their innocence. We as a community must protect our princesses, the first place is in the home. We can’t rely on mainstream media to report them missing. We must use all of our options; TV One, BET, Univision, Telemundo, Black Twitter our publications and our voices. But we must be accurate and we must be collaborative. If you have any ideas of what we can do comment below or hit me on any of my platforms.
Youth & Family Division D.C.
NBC Washington D.C. Affiliate
Washington D.C. Missing Persons
The Center For Missing & Exploited Children
Washington D.C. Police Department
The Washington Post
WJLA ABC7’s Yolanda Traylor