Despite the media’s emphasis on “damsels in distress,” America’s missing come in all ages, genders, economic statuses and skin tones, reports Court TV’s Crimelibrary.com. Reports of missing persons have increased sixfold in the past 25 years, from roughly 150,000 in 1980 to about 900,000 this year. The numbers indicate law enforcers treat cases more seriously now, including those of marginalized citizens. Some 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day, including both adults and children, but only a tiny fraction of those are stereotypical abductions or kidnappings by a stranger.
The National Center for Missing Adults, based in Phoenix, has about 48,000 “active cases.” Four out of 10 missing adults are white, three of 10 black and two of 10 Latino. About one-sixth have psychiatric problems, and people with drug or alcohol addictions are another significant subgroup. NCMA president Kym Pasqualini said Americans have a skewed perspective on missing person demographics because the media tend to focus on “damsels in distress”–affluent young white women and teenagers, such as Taylor Behl in Richmond and Alabama student Natalee Holloway in Aruba. “We’d like to see a little more diversity in reporting, Pasqualini said. “All parents are going through the same thing, no matter how much attention their case gets.” The father of Brianna Maitland, a missing Vermont teen whose case got little national publicity, said, “It baffles me sometimes why one is picked and one isn’t…I think the missing girl has to be a perfect person.”