Too many girls in the District have gone missing with the response from authorities being underwhelming. So much so that a group of women ministers and activists decided to take it upon themselves to stand together on the steps of a Southeast church on Monday to demand that Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. government officials, the media and the church help to find these young African-American and Latina girls and to find ways to protect others from becoming victims.
We are appalled over the deafening silence throughout the community related to the very real threats our young girls and young boys face on a daily basis. It is a known fact that sexual predators are stalking young people on the Internet, roaming the streets to pick them up for no good reasons and disguising themselves as caretakers, teachers, counselors, even ministers and the police while in reality they are child abusers and pedophiles.
There is a role the community must play in knowing about the dangers that lurk in our communities that impact children. One in seven girls and one in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 but those numbers could and probably are much higher given the fact that many instances of abuse of children go unreported. When young girls or boys live in homes where they feel unsafe, the inevitable decision to run away leads them directly into harm’s way. Yet, reports that children are missing fail to sound the alarm because as women advocates insist, the community has become “desensitized” while authorities tend to be unresponsive.
Regardless of how they may seem, many young people live in fear and don’t know where to go for help. They look to one another for comfort and often find refuge in things that will make matters worse.
Every school, church, community organization, government agency and the media must become engaged in actions that help to make this city safe for young people regardless of race, neighborhood, gender or sexual orientation. It begins by making every missing child a priority and not just an ignored poster on a website or a 30-second report on the evening news.