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What is the Missing White Woman Syndrome?

And why is everyone talking about it?

Have you heard of Sarah Everard and Gabby Petito? Probably. In your local news or from social media... How about Kanisha Hemphill? Keeshae Jacobs? Alexis Crawford? Not so familiar, right? Unfortunately, this list is quite long...

Left: Kanisha Hemphill (Facebook) | Middle: Keeshae Jacobs (Family) | Right: Alexis Crawford (Atlanta Police)

Fewer than 40% of women, according to the UN, seek help of any sort, so one can only guess what is the actual number of women suffering from assault, harassment, or any gender-based violence (GBV).

The attempt to close this data gap is of utter importance, and to bring the spotlight to all the victims and not only to white woman victims. How can we prevent it if we don’t raise awareness of the problem?

These horrific stories of violence against women have created powerful movements like #metoo and propelled women from all around the globe to go out to the streets and demand better preventative measures and solutions for women’s safety. But why exactly are some of these names so well known while others are completely unheard of? Why do some cases get so much attention from the media and others just deafening silence?

The media’s fascination with covering white women disappearing is a years-long problem, and not exclusive to violence against women.

A similar case happened in 2017, when Natalee Holloway, a white high school student disappeared, meanwhile hundreds of indigenous and POC were left out of the media spotlight once again.

According to Zach Sommers, a sociologist at Northwestern University who studies crime, there's a pretty sizable amount of research showing that white people are more likely than people of color to appear in news coverage as victims of violent crime and also regarding missing person cases.

The troubling side effect of this is the weakening of already extremely vulnerable communities. With little resources, families of non-white missing people already have even fewer chances of finding their loved ones and bringing the perpetrators to justice. The sad truth is that one of their only hopes, the media, and its powerful ability to raise awareness, chooses to repeatedly ignore them.

In 2018 black women were murdered by men at a rate 3x higher than white women. (source: VPC - When men murder women).

Systemic racism and violence against women have to stop. The level of importance given to a case by the media should not be relativized by race, social status, or any other factor. We need this subject to be talked about, we, as women, are paying for it with our lives. Every case should be treated equally.

How can we help? There is no one way to solve the problem. Prevention is everyone's responsibility, and only by standing together, uniting, educating our communities, and speaking openly about this bias can we start to slowly change our reality. Women of all colors and backgrounds deserve justice.

We can do this together - our voices have power, we have power.

We live in a world of influencers and social media where each and every one of us has enormous leverage at the touch of a button. Nothing can stop us. A strong community, online and locally, can push us to give voice to all these women that did not get the chance to have their stories told.

We are Sarah, we are Gabby, we are Kanisha, we are Keeshae, we are Alexis, and we will not be silenced - we stand together.

Start your own community in your city, empower women from your area to help each other feel safe while walking in the streets, help educate girls and boys about prevention, and build a more resilient community together. We can help you do it! With SafeUP we can create a safer world together, step by step.

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