Natalee Holloway. Amber Hagerman. Polly Klaas. Elizabeth Smart. Chandra Levy. JonBenet Ramsey…
We all know their names. We all know they went missing. In fact, entire episodes of true crime shows, such as Dateline, and 20/20, as well as two-hour Lifetime movies have been dedicated to finding them and sharing their stories. This is what happens when white girls go missing.
But for the 10 Black and Latinx teens who went missing in D.C. last week, the more than 12 Black and Latinx teen girls who disappeared from the Bronx last summer, and the thousands upon thousands of other Black and Latinx teens who are still missing now, the same attention is not given.
Since The Root first reported the alarming trend in the District, which is not new to the month of March, two of the recent missing — Antwan Jordan and Taylor Innis — have fortunately been found alive and well. But the others are still out there somewhere and their friends and families are at home, praying and hoping they will return, too.
The thing is, though, these missing are far from the national spotlight. Locally, Chanel Dickerson, the new head of the Youth and Family Services Division of the D.C. police department, is making it a priority to spread the word about D.C.’s missing children and teens using Twitter, press releases, and local media to do so. But, as The City Paper reports, unlike many others, Dickerson doesn’t feel that sex trafficking is the reason for the perceived surge of missing teens. She believes it just feels like there’s a rise in number because she’s doing a better job of getting the word out.
But according to DC-based sex trafficking advocate and survivor Tina Frundt, who also founded Courtney’s House (an organization that searches for teens who are being sex trafficked; brings them into a safe, supportive environment; and trains police officials and brings awareness to this issue), that can’t be entirely true because she stays working. We’re only three months into the year, and Frundt has already received 106 referrals. Frundt told The City Paper that it can be difficult for the police to measure sex trafficking stats accurately since there is no specific police code for it. Consequently, many victims may be recorded as suffering child abuse or abduction, instead. Frundt went on to say that some missing teens who may be seen as runaways are actually under the control of a sex trafficker.
This is why it is so important that these teens receive the same type of national coverage that white girls who go missing get — they may have been taken far away from the District by now, so local-only news exposure just isn’t good enough. Let’s #SayTheirNames and keep our eyes open.
And if you see anything or hear anything that could potentially help solve one of these most recent cases, contact the D.C. police at 202-727-9099 or tweet them here. For cases in other states, contact the local authorities. Stay up on the latest incidences of missing in the Black community by following the Black & Missing Foundation and, again, report anything you see or hear that may help save a life.