Congress reviews disproportionate rate of missing minority women and girls

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The disappearance and death of Gabby Petito captivated the nation last summer, but other missing women and girls who are Black, brown, and indigenous, often times don’t get that same attention from law enforcement and the media.

“The epidemic of missing persons of color is not a new topic but one that has been dismissed because society doesn’t care about us,” said Shawn Wilkinson, father of missing child.

Wilkinson’s daughter Akia Eggleston was pregnant when she disappeared in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 3, 2017.

Some lawmakers are calling this a crisis hiding in plain sight.

Recent data shows 40 percent of all women and girls reported missing in 2020 were minorities.

During this hearing, committee members heard several heartbreaking stories from parents of missing children.

Pamela Foster shared the story of her children 11-year-old daughter, Ashlynne Mike and 9-year-old son, Ian Mike, who didn’t make it home from school on May 2, 2016. She said they were missing for 12 hours before police issued an AMBER alert

“The lack of technology and infrastructure made it difficult to search for my children,” said  Foster. “Because I felt there was a slow response from law enforcement, I got on social media and reached out to family and friends, asking them to share my urgent message.”

Foster’s story is just one of many.

Officials say there isn’t any federal data collected about missing indigenous women and limited data for Hispanic women who are often categorized as “white”.

Some lawmakers say white women are often treated as vulnerable victims by law enforcement when they’re reported missing.

But minority women are often categorized as responsible for their situations.

Several families say another issue is a lack of communication with law enforcement.

“Support for black, indigenous or people of color is needed now, we are important and deserve the same attention as whites,” said Wilkinson. “I have exhausted everything that has been asked of me to do and I still feel like nothing has been accomplished.”

Some parents believe there should be an alert created for missing pregnant women with updates about their status until they are found safely.