New Missing Persons Project Focuses on Illinois Women and Girls | Black Voices | Chicago News

In the United States, black women and girls are at a disproportionate risk of abuse, exploitation and homicide. In the Chicago area, an alarming number of black women have been killed and their murders have not been solved. And with more black women and girls missing, community organizations say local law enforcement, government and media are not doing enough.

On September 1, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced the formation of the Missing Persons Project. The initiative assigns a new team of detectives to work on long-missing persons cases.

Angela Martin-Fields, whose mother Viola Martin has been missing since 2009, spoke during the announcement of the project.

“My mom had a drug problem, but she was sober for five years,” Martin-Fields said. “We thought it was probably just a little relapse, like three days, that’s all… we just left her Christmas house and she was going to my sister’s house… bring her a plate because she had just been released from the hospital. . After that, we neither heard from my mother nor saw our mother again.

Reverend Robin Hood, founding member of the West Side community organization Mothers opposed to violence everywhere, or MOVE, says cases like Martin’s, in which a victim may have a history of drug addiction or sex work, affect how law enforcement, media and the public view them. Hood is working on a documentary on the subject and says that while many victims had nothing to do with drugs or sex work, these factors shouldn’t matter when it comes to handling their cases. .

“It shouldn’t make a difference because it’s someone’s mother, sister, daughter, wife, cousin, neighbor, loved one,” Hood said. “To say, well, that they were sex workers and that they didn’t deserve to live is so inhuman.

Another factor contributing to the current crisis is the lack of focused and individual media attention, says Nikki Patin, director of community engagement for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, or CAASE.

“It’s the fact that we have so many women – I believe 75 have been missing and murdered since 2001 – and we tend to think of them as a large group, which means we don’t specifically say people’s names. out loud, ”Patine said. “What I find ironic is that the media will report the lack of media attention, but we still don’t get these individual stories of missing and murdered women and girls.”

Law enforcement is also responsible for handling these cases, say Hood and Patin.

“When you’re a police officer and you can show up to a situation where a little black girl is at the center and you can look at her and say, ‘it’s not worth arresting’ or ‘this not worth the investigation ”or“ I think it was consensual. ” These are all things that I have heard throughout my work, ”said Patin.

“Law enforcement needs to answer the phone,” Hood said. “The detectives who are assigned to the missing girls and women cases have to answer the phone. If you’re white, they’re investigating these murders. Black families have to deal with the fact that law enforcement doesn’t find this at the top of their, the food chain, so to speak. “

CAASE and MOVE are two of the partner community organizations in Chicago to fight the exploitation and trafficking of black girls. The coalition is called Protect black girls, and was the brainchild of sex trade activist and survivor Brenda Myers-Powell. Patin says that although the coalition is still in its early stages, it is already working on cases of exploitation and trafficking across the country.

“I think it’s important for people to know we’re here to do this job because the perception is that nobody cares,” said Patin. “There is a large group of us who care about this and have worked actively as part of this coalition. “

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