More than 50 Black girls have been reported missing from New York and New Jersey. According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, almost 20 Black have gone missing in these states since the beginning of the year.
The disappearance of two of the girls, 19-year-old Saniya Dennis and 15-year-old Sanaa Amenhotep made national headlines. Authorities have said Dennis died by suicide after getting into an argument with her ex-boyfriend, her family is demanding more answers as her body has not been found.
The family of 15-year-old Sanaa, said authorities did not take initial reports that the teen had been abducted seriously. She was missing for three weeks before her body was found shot more than ten times and buried in a wooded area in South Carolina. Sanaa’s father, Newark activist Sharif Amenhotep, said “there was no investigation” when looking for his daughter. “I know the difference between someone missing and someone abducted. Resources are totally different. The response, urgency is totally different,” he said per a report by Amsterdam News. Three teens were charged in Sanaa’s abduction and murder and a memorial service was held earlier this month in her honor.
How the Pandemic is Contributing to the Problem
“We’re seeing more and more young girls and boys lured into sex trafficking or meeting someone online,” Wilson told Amsterdam News. “These predators know how to navigate social media and they’re interacting with our children. Sadly, we’re seeing an uptick in kids who are going missing.” To accommodate virtual learning during the pandemic, many students were given electronic devices which increased online time and their vulnerability. Gaming platforms also offer opportunities for predators to potentially target and lure children and teens.
“We have to monitor what our children are doing online and who they’re speaking with,” Wilson said. “We have to be proactive as a community to protect our children online.”
Given the amount of news coverage dedicated to the pandemic, election, and other topics, reports on missing children have not gotten much attention. Prior to the pandemic, missing Black children weren’t reported by media outlets at the same rates as other children.
To protect our children, Wilson said computers and devices should be situated in open spaces, not in bedrooms. Additionally, Wilson suggested that guardians make fake social media accounts and follow their children to see if the child will disclose personal information. If the child does, Wilson said a conversation about internet safety should be had.
For more resources on internet safety click here.
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone, anyone who needs to talk can call the National Suicide LifeLine at 800-273-8255 no matter the time of day.
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