We Suck

Our foreign-born first lady has launched a campaign against cyber bullying. That’s effing amazing! With Ivanka talking about trafficking and Melania talking about the dangers online, we might get some headway with parents! They might finally listen when I tell them to turn off the screens!

The news coverage this morning?

Internet erupts in criticism of FLOTUS’ accent, clothing. Spread nude photos and call her a whore.

This really disappoints me. How do we tell children, “this passes,” “ignore the bullies,” “someday you’ll be driving a BMW while they flip burgers…”? How will they believe us, if the most protected woman in America is being violated and attacked so openly? How can they trust when there are crowds cheering when a woman demands that another women be raped or harmed?

The reality is, the way we are, the bullying will never end. No one is safe, and it’s usually the best of us on the recieving end. These monsters are driving children, and adults alike, to suicide. I guess, we can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. The ones that don’t kill themselves? They’re so vulnerable to online predators, that they go from stranger to ‘in danger’ in minutes.

Then! After becoming victims, the cycle starts over, and they’re bullied for having been hurt. I’ve seen a couple local cases where vulnerable girls were bullied, sextorted, doxxed, bullied, then committed/attempted suicide. In that order.

Something’s gotta give here. The lines between online abuse and suicicide and self harm and exploitation are already so blurred. Soon… very soon… it will be a given that a dead teen was probably bullied, self harmed, got conned, and raped. Worse than that, it’ll be normal.

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Racial Apathy or Voyeurism?

I’ve been looking for missing people for a couple years now. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. When it comes to missing persons, young women especially, race matters. I would dearly love to one day finish my degree so I can tell you with certainty why that is, but for now, I only have a couple guesses.

Before I ever actually investigated a case, my interest was piqued by the disappearance of Natalie Holloway. As tragic as it was, I was astounded and equally confounded by the outpouring of interest and emotional response. It was as though this was the first 18 year old from the US ever went missing. Natalie has never been found.

When compared to the disappearance of Rebeca Jose, barely a month prior, the difference in support and outrage is easily quantifiable. I doubt anyone beyond a couple NCMEC junkies and her family could tell you anything about this 17 year old Latina.

The obvious answer is to suggest that predominantly white media and its viewers are racist. When I have a missing black kid, I get pretty close to that conclusion too. What other explanation is there for a white 15 yo’s poster getting 17,000 views in one day, compared to barely a 1000 for a black one? Social scientists have termed this “Missing white woman syndrome.” Conversely, when a black or hispanic kid/adult goes missing, I’ve found myself referring to the underwhelming response as, “Missing brown girl apathy.” But, I think I’m wrong.

When you compare the high profile missing cases, yes, race of the victim plays a roll, but I don’t think it’s sympathy driving the interest. I think it’s voyeurism, a little sadism, and self interest. People like drama. They love to see suffering. And who suffers the most, but someone who hasn’t had to starve, endure stressful police encounters, or choose between an education or a minimum wage job?

Like, I said. I may be completely off base. Considering all my unsolved or unresolved cases involve minority and impoverished females, I have trouble doubting my own opinion. Of the fifty to sixty missing person cases I’ve worked or consulted on, I know for absolute certain that the hardest ones have been minorities.

Take from that, what you will, but I do hope you’ll think about that next time you tune in to Nancy Grace and she parades another blond haired blue eyed victim across your screen. For every one of them, there are hundreds of brown ones still waiting for justice. The media is exploitative and feeds us suffering.

M is for Missing Persons

If you have found my blog, chances are, you already know my speil. I’m a private investigator. I specialize in missing and exploited persons.” I’m still working on a way to make it a paying gig, whether though patrons and benefactors, speaking and lectures, or maybe grants and agencies. As long as families don’t have to pay or fundraise, I’m in.

Anyhow, let’s touch on the “missing” part of that bit. Did you onow there is no waiting period to report a person missing? Each agency or municipality has authority to set a time period or litmus style requirement, but at the core, you can report someone missing as soon as you have reason to believe that something is wrong?

I’ve been on the phone with a detective and said, “this 18 yo left home without money or a power cable for her phone. She’s not been home or at work in 11 days.” And the detective refused to file a report. His agency is getting a refresher on missing persons protocols from the Fusion Center. Since then, we’ve spoken and he says they will take any report.

Here’s some tips for family members and parents when reporting a person :

DO:

Give description with distinguishing marks, last known outfit.

Tell officer if charging cable, electronic devices, or money are missing.

Tell officer of any history of abuse, drug use, mental illness, or recent (6 mos) significant events like bullying, suicide attempt, loss of family member, break up, etc.

Tell officer if person is undergoing any type of treatment and all medications.

Have the police put the child is the NCMEC database.

Only share the police or a professional made poster.

DO NOT:

Call to “report a runaway.” You are reporting a person missing. The term runaway will breed apathy and disinterest.

Make accusations, act a fool, or broadcast dirty laundry online. If you can’t be civil, shut up.

Be dismissive of the dangers, especially in front of police. If you broadcast your disinterest or disfunction, they will be equally as dismissive.

Lie or exagerate to officers or detectives. Especially about the roles of friends. Most missing teen cases I have, I compare notes with the detective, almost daily. More oftent than not, parents will tell us different stories, usually to create a sense of urgency or to get more people working the case. It does not work and hurts credibility. Once we see that happen, we begin withholding new details and not returning parent calls.

Withold details because they are embarassing or painful. Drug use, history or abuse, mental issues, whatever, are vital for search team members. They also give detectives a clear idea of risk factors for trafficking.

Here’s the last tip:

Have a united front online and on TV. I have consulted on cases from around the country and the best way to get dropped by the media is to have family drama get played out in public. Designate a single spokes person and everyone else shut up. Every. Single. Time.

And here is the last thing. Sometimes, nothing works and cases get ignored, fall through the cracks, or are straight up mishandled. Do not give up. There are people like me that won’t.

Since I have you here, can you share Lisa’s poster? I’m still in school, as it were, learning how to do what I need to to find her. I will find her. I could use your help though. Share this. Talk about her. Talk about how her dad answers his phone with a cracking voice when he knows it’s about her. Talk about how a 24 year old black woman was last seen half dressed, walking into the woods, and police closed up shop and said she’s fine. Talk about how there’s been no activity on her accounts, credit, or close knit family for over a year and police still insist she is not in danger. Do that for me please?

H is for How Things Don’t Change

I’ve been doing abolition work for a couple years now. It feels like herding cats most days. I still run into cops and civilians that think children can consent to being prostitutes… and want to arrest them! I still have to tell other abolitionists to stop saying “runaway”. I still get shocked deer in the headlight looks when I correct stereotypes. I still have to fight with people that would legalize prostitution and lower consent ages.

I would love to say it’s less often, but it’s not. It would seem, that as technology has grown so fast, that ignorance and self interest have overtaken any sense of social responsibility most people have. Here is a top example:

If you talk to anyone in the “rescuing trafficking victims” racket, backpage is one of the easiest places to procure a child for sale. Now, I have mixed feelings on this shutdown, but not cause I think being sold like chattle is an inalienable human right. Frankly, it won’t attack demand or even slow down traffickers. Now, I’ll have to work ten times harder and probably have to do something unethical to ensure I can still rescue kids. I do mean kids.

The average age of prostitutes in the US is 16…. AVERAGE AGE.

Here’s one of my posts from last year, upon learning that several of the abolitionist and prolife groups I support, and work with, had been disinvited from attending the march.

Let me end with this. Even if you (wrongly) support legalization of prostitution, wouldn’t you still be opposed to enslaving men, women, and children? Can’t those two sentiments occupy the same headspace?

G is for Gullibility

I admit, occasionally, I will paruse comment sections on memes or news articles. I’ve finally learned not to actually comment on them, but I do marvel at the collective absence of fact or critical thinking that fills comment after comment.

“I feel very strongly that…. (insert technically inaccurate statement) is (insert subjective judgement).”

That’s probably the most common one I see. It’s closely followed by a handful of other emotion based, and thoroughly subjective type of statements. Normally, I regard these as “weaponized emotions” because, if anyone fails to validate the statement, this hurts feelings… not the actual topic.

Anyhow, I am beginning to wonder if these people are not just poor debaters, but actually victims of some kind of plot. Like, did they get tricked into this? Are their arguments and beliefs a kind of magic bean that they have been told will transform their lives?

If that is the case, it’s almost more disturbing because Jack wasn’t just gullible, he was kind of a murdering thief. Upon discoving someone different from him, he decided the person was a monster and therefore it was okay to rob and murder him. I never could figure out why that was a happy ending.

But… it does make me think.

F is for Figuroutable

I have this framed in my bedroom next to a quote by Henry Ford. “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

These are not the most common motivational quotes, or even the best. That doesn’t stop them from being right, though. In a world of collective helplessness and victimhood, I find solace in these reminders. It gives me hope that I am not alone in a sea of futility. There are other people that see the same problems I do, and are working on them too.

One quote I neglected to frame is from my son’s favorite childhood movie, Robots. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do that… now. Big Weld is the proverbial “wizard” in the lead character’s quest to save robotkind. Mr. Weld built an empire of invention and charity with a single philosophy. “See a need, fill a need.”

Perhaps, today, we can all go find a problem or a need and choose to be part of the solution?

E is for Exploitative Reporting of Exploitation

I just saw an advocacy organization sharing a news article about two women who got roofied by some other women at a bar. The article’s claim was that the victims think they were targeted by sex traffickers. Let me be clear: I am not victim blaming or doubting. I am willing to believe that this incident happened. My commentary is about their perception of their attacker’s intent as well as the focus of the media/public.

I’ll put the link to the original article below, but the jist is, three young women went to a bar and were provided drinks by a couple other young ladies. One of the three was the designated driver. She did not imbibe; and after twenty minutes or so, saw her friends behaving overly drunk and impaired, so she intervened. Police are investigating.

The news reports that the young women think they were being targeted by sex traffickers. I actually think they are right, but not in the way they think. The fact of the matter is, kidnapping is not in the MO of traditional traffickers. Drugging and removing two or three women from a social setting [to sell on the sex circuit] would attract attention. Once they’re recovered, it would create outcry. That is in direct conflict with the current status quo of grooming vulnerable men, women, and children into burning necessary bridges, creating the proper circumstance, then leaving of their own accord. When these people are recovered, the media rarely gives the whole story. Public perception is either that everything is hunky dory or that these troubled individuals made bad decisions and need help. Very little attention is paid to how or why.

I feel strongly that this particular report is going to do more harm than good. The public is ignorant to what trafficking really is, how prolific, and really, the nature of the crimes done. It’s irresponsible to discuss this incident without the context of what typical trafficking looks like. We must be articulate to educate.

That being said, I’m a little more … alarmist… forward thinking… conservative… I’m not sure what the term would be. I do not accept that trafficking can be or should be narrowly defined or confined to forced prostitution. I foresee a day when trafficking will include all forms of exploitation in which force, coercion, threat, or authority is used to generate a profit. This would include (but not be limited to) sextortion, child pornography, amateur & professional pornography, child molestation, prostitution, and servitude. Including all these would require a massive overhaul of legal definitions and wide acceptance that bartered goods/service, digital currency, and power brokering are forms of currency and profit.

This brings us back to these young women. If things played out the way I suspect they would have, I think the likely outcome would have been in the form of amateur pornography. The details are too much for this forum, but suffice to say, there is a demand for pornography that depicts unresponsive women being exploited. A very high demand.

Therein lies the problem. Had the friend not been present and the drugging been effective, the law would not have treated their attackers as traffickers. They would have faced a slew of charges, but not that big fat federal beef that could put them all in federal prison for consecutive terms.

I know victims of this form of ambush pornography, who were drugged or taken advantage of while inebriated. I know a couple that fell prey to modeling scams and ended up in threatening situations that they didn’t know how to get out of. They don’t expect to get justice because most people view pornography as victimless and (in spite of 20 years of date rape education) still feel that partaking on alcohol or drugs, or answering an ad is consenting to anything that happens after. We pretend that this has changed, but it hasn’t.

I say this more often than I like, but I don’t know the right answer here. Do we criminalize more things? Mandatory minimum sentences? I know what I’d like to see, but I’m not an expert. The only thing I absolutely know for sure, is that we need to be talking about it. Talk about date rape, pornography, voyeurism, crimes against children, trafficking. When one is brought up, discuss them all. When NONE are brought up, discuss them all. There are a handful of things that [I know for certain] absolutely must happen if we’re going to impact the supply and demand for sex and labor exploitation, but the absolute FIRST thing that must happen is the dialogue.

Link to article here