Are All Missing Persons Female?

 The folks who brought you the Violence Against Women Act (more on that later) have turned their sights on missing and unidentified BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).  Although to be scrupulously accurate, I should say BIWOC (Black, Indigenous and Women of Color), because, as with their efforts on domestic violence, only female victims are important to them despite the fact that there are far more males who are missing or identified than females.

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on “The Neglected Epidemic of Missing BIPOC Women and Girls,” which, in case we hadn’t gotten the message, hearing convenor Rep. Robin Kelly (D. IL) informed us “is truly an epidemic.”

It’s not.  In fact, the FBI maintains a database of missing persons where we find that there are 578 indigenous and 13,899 missing black women and girls.  Those figures have accumulated over many years, not just a year or a few years.  If you’re keeping score, that’s 0.021% of all indigenous Americans being missing females and 0.0033% of all blacks.  I repeat, that’s not an “epidemic.”  It’s a terrible tragedy and heartache for their loved ones who critically have no idea about where they are, whether they’re alive or dead, well or ill, happy or unhappy, etc.  In some ways, it’s better to know a loved one’s fate, even if that fate was terrible, than to remain in the dark and always wonder.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t put the matter in perspective, something Kelly adamantly refuses to do.

More importantly, what she refuses to do is to acknowledge even the existence of missing and unidentified males, much less that they make up 57% of all such people.  The FBI’s data on missing and unidentified people are as follows: Indigenous Males – 918, Indigenous Females - 578; Black Males – 14,302, Black Females – 13,899; White Males – 27,720, White Females – 20,990.   

Kelly assures us that “In Congress, I’m committed to advancing commonsense legislation that ensures all Americans can live their American Dream.”  She’s not.  On the contrary, in her hearing statement she affirmed that, “The issue of missing Black, Brown, and Indigenous women and girls in America is truly an epidemic, and critically important to me.”  Not a peep about men or boys, by far the larger of the two groups of missing persons.

This of course is not without precedent.  From the earliest days of our awareness of the problem of domestic violence, those most influential regarding the issue have always contended that only women are victims and only men are perpetrators and that, if a woman does commit DV, it’s only in self-defense.  That’s never been true and it’s been known to be false since Erin Pizzey opened the very first domestic violence shelter for women in England in 1971.  Since then, study after study has shown that women are as likely as men or more likely to commit DV and that their acts are almost as injurious.  Lesbian relationships consistently register higher rates of interpersonal violence than do any other kind.

But the industry that’s grown up around DV has resisted admitting the truth from 1971 to the present.  That of course has meant that our ability to combat what is unquestionably an important problem is hamstrung by ideology instead of being informed by science.  Unsurprisingly, we’ve been remarkably ineffective at reducing levels of domestic violence. 

Plus, needless to say, the genesis of the DV movement included pronouncing DV an “epidemic.”  (See also the “epidemic” of rape on campus, so eagerly ballyhooed by MS Magazine and so utterly at odds with the truth.)

And it’s not just Rep. Kelly’s committee who’s doing this.  Check out this PBS video on the subject of missing women entitled “Bring Her Home,” that’s eerily reminiscent of another PBS production called “Breaking the Silence.”  Both ignore male victims in favor of the false suggestion that only women can be.

So it’s deeply disturbing to see missing males kicked to the curb in the service of an ideology-driven narrative of male corruption and female innocence.  We’ve seen this before and know where it leads – to policies that can’t address the problem because they misperceive both the problem and its causes.

Fortunately, the Coalition to End Domestic Violence is pushing back against the rhetoric with fact-based and constructive initiatives.  Stay tuned for CEDV’s next public awareness campaign on missing persons.

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