Washington, DC’s Missing Person Crisis: 5 Tips to Help Keep You Safe

The recent disappearances of young girls in Washington, D.C. has given people across the nation a much-needed wake-up call.

It all began the week of March 19 when a wave of about a dozen Black and Latina girls were reported missing by D.C. police. With social media ablaze with images of these girls and their physical descriptions, an outcry ensued as many noticed that all of them were minorities and they were all from the same region (mainly D.C. and Maryland). Now Americans are trying to figure out why young women of color are specifically being targeted, why has it taken so long to enforce action, and what could be done to put an end to this horrific nightmare.

According to the Associated Press, more than 500 cases of missing children and minors were logged by the D.C. Police Department in the first three months of 2017.

Many residents expressed their anger at a March 22 town hall meeting in southeast D.C. regarding the disappearances, stating that missing White individuals receive more attention and action not only locally but nationally. The late journalist, Gwen Ifill, once referred to this as “missing white woman syndrome”.

Social media has been key in spreading information about these missing individuals, however, all of the information has not been factual. The viral post of 14 girls going missing in 24 hours was not true. However, this is good and bad. For obvious reasons the misinformation causes confusion, thus delaying any progress towards finding the girls (if they’re even missing). However, the false tweets and Instagram post have forced the police to make more of an active effort to correct these things and post more about these missing people in general. It has also caused Americans across the country to become to educate themselves on the horrors of kidnapped children and minors, teenage runaways, and sex trafficking.

So how do we, especially as women of color, attempt to be safe from predators?  Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

  • Never travel at night alone: Even if it is just to your car. Always have someone walk with you to the car or remain on the phone with someone until you get to the car. Have your keys in your hand before you leave the building. For extra protection hold a few of them in between your fingers to use as a weapon if needed. Wait until you are close to your car to unlock it. If you unlock it from across the lot, someone can easily hop in and hide without you noticing. Once you’re in the car, lock the doors and start driving. Sitting in your car too long gives predators the opportunity to make their move.
  • Be actively aware of your surroundings: We’re all guilty of burying ourselves into our phones sometimes, whether we’re following up on work emails or catching up on social media. However, when you’re not paying attention you’re much more vulnerable to an attack. 
  • Consider investing in self-defense gear, like mace and tasers (make sure to look up your state’s laws regarding these items): Companies like Blingsting are continuously putting out products (bedazzled pepper sprays and other items) that help women stay safe with a cute touch.
  • Look up self-defense courses in your area.
  • Always inform a family member or friend once you have made it home, especially at night.
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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.