Fri Oct 8th, 2021
Tags: Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence, colonization, dating violence, Domestic Violence, ew Research Center, Gabby Petito, Indigenous organizations, Indigenous women, intimate partner violence, missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR), Missing White Woman Syndrome, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, National Institute of Justice, national mainstream news media coverage, People of Color (BIPOC), qual coverage of MMIR, sexual violence, StrongHearts Native Helpline
Organizations: StrongHearts Native Helpline, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence.
Several weeks of national mainstream news media coverage has been focused on Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old white woman who recently was reported missing and subsequently found murdered. We offer our sincere condolences to her family. No one should have to experience this kind of tragedy exacerbated by noted indicators of domestic violence.
We are national Indigenous organizations dedicated to ending the cycle of violence that adversely affects 84% of Indigenous women (Rosay, André B.) during their lifetime. Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher (Bachman, Ronet) than other races in some communities. More than half have been physically abused by an intimate partner, according to the National Institute of Justice.
The loss of an Indigenous woman’s life is all too familiar in our communities. Hundreds of Indigenous people go missing every year. Many of them vanish without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. Too many of them are found murdered with their cases often left uninvestigated and unresolved by local, state and/or federal authorities.
Yet, none of our relatives to date have received much, if any, attention from the news media, concentrated efforts by law enforcement departments, or an outpouring of financial contributions from ordinary citizens. Indian tribes, communities and family members don’t have unlimited financial resources to help us locate our missing relatives. Up until recently, our missing relatives have not amassed social media followings to galvanize searches. The contrast that we are witnessing regarding this particular case is heartbreaking to the many Indigenous families and communities dealing with the daily pain of losing their loved ones. The contrast sends the message that society has little regard for Indigenous lives.
We are not alone in seeing systemic and law enforcement bias when it comes to the lack of coverage of and case resolutions of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR). In 2004 this lack of attention and bias was given a title – “Missing White Woman Syndrome” – by the late American news anchor Gwen Ifill. Moreover, American news outlets continue to be less demographically diverse, with staffing consisting of primarily white male journalists, according to the Pew Research Center. The lack of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) journalists in the mainstream contributes to additional challenges that Indigenous people face when it comes to equal coverage of MMIR and other related issues.
It is truly devastating to lose another life to violence. There are no words to fully express the pain of a parent losing a child in a violent way. As Indigenous peoples, we understand too well the ugly, ongoing nature of violence across this land and upon our people through our lived experiences. It’s been happening since the advent of colonization.
Missing and murdered Indigenous relatives deserve the same attention and resources that society, the media and the justice system have given to Gabby Petito’s case. Their lives are important. As partner organizations in the effort to provide support and advocate for Indigenous women and peoples impacted by domestic violence, intimate partner violence, dating violence, and sexual violence, we honor all individuals, families and communities impacted by MMIR and all those working so diligently to end this crisis of violence.
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