WASHINGTON — Despite making up only 16% of the population, 40% of women and girls reported missing in 2020 were people of color, according to the U.S. Census.

Natalie Wilson, founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, testified during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Thursday that missing women of color are more likely to be reported as runaways by law enforcement, which means the AMBER Alert is not activated.

“They’re often not viewed as victims,” Wilson said. “The stigma hampers efforts to find them because there’s a mindset that their actions or deviant behavior led to their disappearance.”

Several witnesses and lawmakers also emphasized the discrepancies in media coverage when it comes to missing women, citing the media attention that victims like Gabby Petito received in comparison to BIPOC women.

“We have a plethora of stations, dozens and dozens reporting the news, and the news cycle is not just nine to five, it’s twenty-four hours,” said Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.). “I can’t, for the life of me, understand why situations of missing women and missing children are not more reported in all of that time.”

Lawmakers hope the Senate will pass the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was introduced last year. They are continuing to push for other legislation, such as the Protect Women and Girls Act of 2021, to pass the House of Representatives.

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