Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Missing White Woman's Syndrome

Today The Crime Report published an article on the "Missing White Women Syndrome" (aka the Damsel in Distress Syndrome), the concept that reports of missing persons in the media lean towards covering the murder, kidnapping, or disappearance of only young, pretty, thin, conventional, heterosexual, middle-class or higher white females, because they draw audiences where male, gay, fat, homely, minority, poor, disabled and/or older victims do not.

The Crime Report Article notes that age, sex, and race, hair color, and beauty does indeed play a role in missing persons media coverage. Some people disagree, thinking this concept is cliche. The Crime Report referred to the NCIC missing person statistics to form its argument.Below are actual quotes from the article:

Age
The NCIC database indicates that of the 692,944 people reported missing in 2010, 531,928 were under age 18. Most people would agree that it’s reasonable and appropriate for cases of missing children to get a lot of press. Children are vulnerable and innocent. And such cases are every parent’s worst nightmare.

Sex
According to the NCIC statistics, 355,243 women were reported missing in 2010,  compared to 337,660 men. But the slight edge that women have in the numbers doesn’t seem to justify the barrage of coverage their cases get at the expense of all those missing men. Think about it: when was the last time you saw extensive media coverage of the disappearance of a man?

Race
Besides sex, race is the biggest factor in determining how much interest journalists seem to show in a missing persons case. It’s difficult to tell from the NCIC statistics exactly how many white women were reported missing in 2010, because the database lumps white and Hispanic missing persons together (418,859) and doesn’t break down the race information by gender. But journalists certainly act as if cases of missing white people, especially women, merit extensive coverage....

For example, the disappearance of pregnant Laci Peterson was a huge news story. In contrast, a pregnant black woman named LaToyia Figueroa who disappeared was barely a blip in the national media, despite efforts by her family to enlist journalists’ help in finding her. (Like Peterson, Figueroa was later found murdered.)

It was a good article. I can expound on this further. Look at the list of cases that is mentioned in the 2006 "Adam Walsh Act." The list in the AWA is a virtual "who's who" of high-profile missing persons cases:

(1) Jacob Wetterling, who was 11 years old, was abducted in 1989 in Minnesota, and
remains missing.
(2) Megan Nicole Kanka, who was 7 years old, was abducted, sexually assaulted, and
murdered in 1994, in New Jersey.
(3) Pam Lychner, who was 31 years old, was attacked by a career offender in Houston,
Texas.
(4) Jetseta Gage, who was 10 years old, was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and
murdered in 2005, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
(5) Dru Sjodin, who was 22 years old, was sexually assaulted and murdered in 2003, in
North Dakota.
(6) Jessica Lunsford, who was 9 years old, was abducted, sexually assaulted, buried alive,
and murdered in 2005, in Homosassa, Florida.
(7) Sarah Lunde, who was 13 years old, was strangled and murdered in 2005, in Ruskin,
Florida.
(8) Amie Zyla, who was 8 years old, was sexually assaulted in 1996 by a juvenile offender
in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and has become an advocate for child victims and protection of
children from juvenile sex offenders.
(9) Christy Ann Fornoff, who was 13 years old, was abducted, sexually assaulted, and
murdered in 1984, in Tempe, Arizona.
(10) Alexandra Nicole Zapp, who was 30 years old, was brutally attacked and murdered
in a public restroom by a repeat sex offender in 2002, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
(11) Polly Klaas, who was 12 years old, was abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered
in 1993 by a career offender in California.
(12) Jimmy Ryce, who was 9 years old, was kidnapped and murdered in Florida on
8 of 82
September 11, 1995.
(13) Carlie Brucia, who was 11 years old, was abducted and murdered in Florida in
February, 2004.
(14) Amanda Brown, who was 7 years old, was abducted and murdered in Florida in
1998.
(15) Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 years old, was abducted in Salt Lake City, Utah in
June 2002.
(16) Molly Bish, who was 16 years old, was abducted in 2000 while working as a
lifeguard in Warren, Massachusetts, where her remains were found 3 years later.
(17) Samantha Runnion, who was 5 years old, was abducted, sexually assaulted, and
murdered in California on July 15, 2002.

Of these 17 names:
1. Jacob Wetterling: white 11 year old boy
2. Megan Kanka: blonde white 7 year old girl
3. Pam Lychner: blonde white 31 year old woman
4. Jetseta Gage: brunette white 10 year old girl
5. Dru Sjodin: blonde white 22 year old woman
6. Jessica Lunsford: blonde white 9 year old girl
7. Sarah Lunde: brunette white 13 year old girl
8. Amie Zyla: blonde white 8 year old girl
9. Christy Ann Fornoff: blonde white 13 year old girl
10. Alexandra Nicole Zapp: Redhead white 30 year old woman
11. Polly Klaas: Brunette white 12 year old girl
12. Jimmy Ryce: 9 year old white boy
13. Carle Brucia: blonde white 11 year old girl
14. Amanda Brown: brunette white 7 year old girl
15. Elizabeth Smart: blonde white 14 year old girl
16. Molly Bish: blonde white 16 year old girl
17. Samantha Runnion: blonde white 5 year old girl

The AWA also adds Masha Allen, who inspired the Title VII "Masha's Law" provision of the AWA, is also a blonde girl known for being a victim of child porn.

So out of this list of 18 (counting Masha), 14 of the 18 are under 18, 16 of the 18 are female, and 18 of 18 are white.

I wonder if Christopher Barrios would've been added to this list had his murder happened before the AWA passed? I doubt it.

There is an air of truth to the "missing white girl" syndrome.

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