When news first broke of the missing UVA student, Hannah Graham, I felt physically ill. There are entirely too many children and young women who go missing in this country and beyond. It brought back Natalie Holloway memories from years ago, another missing girl, never found. When you have your own children, it hits so close to home, especially when you see the Graham’s, the mental and physical exhaustion and the overwhelming sadness and despair displayed like a billboard on their faces. As a Mom of a daughter who will be in High School next year, I know how fast they grow up. Middle school has flown by; High School will too. And then my girl will be off to college, and I will worry endlessly because of the world we live in right now.
The Hannah Graham case bothers me, in particular, for so many reasons. I can identify with her as I was once a college student as well. Those four years are when you taste your first bit of freedom and independence. The sudden independence can sometimes result in making poor decisions. I remember walking home by myself from work in the city of Pittsburgh, late at night sometimes. I remember getting tired of being at a party and walking down the hill to my dorm, by myself. Those decisions were not in my best interest. I should have had a friend with me, or called for a shuttle. But I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and I didn’t really think about it being unsafe. I shouldn’t have had to worry. A woman should be able to take a walk without expecting to be kidnapped, assaulted or killed.
The most disturbing thing about Hannah Graham’s disappearance is that there are so many people who are blaming her for whatever has happened to her. There are tweets about her being dressed inappropriately; posts about her being drunk and stupid, and all kinds of other blaming language that makes me absolutely sick. Blaming her for the situation she’s in because of her outfit is insulting to men too. Should men really have NO control over their desires when they see an attractive woman wearing a crop top? Making these kinds of statements is insulting to men and women alike. Young women AND men should also be able to make a mistake with their alcohol intake without paying with their lives. It is a sad state of affairs when one night of overindulgence turns into a missing persons case. When I taught Sexual Assault Awareness seminars at the University of Pittsburgh and surrounding schools, I used to tell the attendees that a woman wearing nothing but cellophane is certainly asking for attention, but NO ONE is asking to be raped.
There are also those trying to turn this into a race issue. Two of the missing girls from this area are black. This is a missing girl problem, not a race issue. I don’t care if the perpetrator is white, black or purple. I just want him/them caught and the girls to come home. And if the last person who was seen with her is now on the run, it doesn’t look very good for him. Why didn’t he just tell police what he knew? His behavior alone makes him look guilty. If he has nothing to hide, then why lawyer up, refuse to talk, and leave town? Innocent people don’t act like this. And if he truly is innocent and just scared of being blamed for something he didn’t do, then he should want to help police with whatever information he may have that may lead to the right person. I don’t understand that behavior; and I really don’t understand a lawyer that could advise him otherwise, unless of course, he’s hiding something.
Hannah is not the only girl to go missing from the Charlottesville, VA and surrounding areas either. Over the years, many women have gone missing from this area, their bodies never found (with the exception of Morgan Harrington, who should have been able to attend a Metallica concert without paying with her life). A quick Google search for “Route 29 stalker” turns up some truly scary stuff. Why are women going missing from this area, and why can’t they find the person/s who’s doing it?
The video surveillance they have of Hannah Graham on the night she went missing is disturbing too. In one, she’s walking right to left along the mall. A man standing in a doorway seems to spot her and he slowly moves out into the crowd and starts following her. This is the man who has supposedly come forward to identify the person of interest. Perhaps someone should be taking another look at him. In addition, you have the person of interest, Jesse Matthew, who you see walking left to right, crossing the mall and then falling in step behind her as well. In other videos he’s seen with her. What if they guy in the doorway is acting as a spotter? Why have the person of interest AND his two roommates vanished into thin air? What if this is part of a human trafficking ring, now on the move because the police began sniffing around? Human trafficking is this country’s dirty little secret. Where I moved from, in recent years, multiple rings were broken up. My hometown was forming a task force to combat Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking’s presence would certainly help to explain all of the people who go missing, their bodies never found.
I think the most disturbing thing of all though, is that on a personal level, there’s yet another instance I need to talk about with my girls. There’s another case out there that lets them know that this world is not the innocent and safe place I’d like it to be for them. In today’s society, you have to be mistake-proof; because a single wrong turn on a street could mean you’re gone. One too many drinks can mean you’re vulnerable; and accepting a drink from someone can make you even more so. I hope and pray they find Hannah, and all of the other missing girls alive somewhere. The Cleveland case gives me some hope, although the torture those poor women endured is just beyond comprehension. Keep your eyes open for things that don’t seem right. Report things that give you that funny feeling; and maybe, just maybe, we can make this world a safer place for ourselves and our children, and bring girls like Hannah Graham home.
If you haven’t already, check out “Help Save the Next Girl.”
Recognize the signs: HumanTrafficking.org
Missing Persons List: do you recognize anyone?
Have you seen this guy or the car he’s traveling in?