Photo by Cheryl Harris of the NEOCH Photo Project
Are We Casting Aside Some Women in Our Cities?
As you most likely have read, Cleveland had a serial killer living in the Mt Pleasant neighborhood. I know the victims, and I see them almost everyday. At this point, only one woman has in fact been identified, but we know that they were all African American women. But I can close my eyes and see these women in our shelters in Cleveland. They sometimes have an addiction or a mental health problem or chronic health condition and they always have unstable housing. They "hook up" for short periods of time with men to have a place to stay. They self medicate and struggle to find ways to feed their addiction or find help for their health issues. They see five years of waiting for housing, and so they try to find someone who help. They have a tenuous job and no career. These women have strained relationships with family or no family in the area, and they are looking for a lifeline. The short cut is to stay with a man and put up with physical or mental abuse or exchange sex for a warm bed or tolerate countless other forms of mistreatment. This is a sometimes a matter of survival, but it is also dangerous for these women.
Did authorities do enough when these transient women go missing? I am not blaming the police, because they have most likely been burnt thousands of times looking for women who were not in fact missing. They have probably wasted thousands of police hours chasing people who do not want to be found because they are fleeing the bill collector or they are just having a hard time finding a place to live. But these grieving families over on Imperial Avenue are angry and confused. They know that if there were two white women missing from the same neighborhood in Westlake there would be a task force and the FBI, National Guard and John Walsh would be here kicking in doors in that neighborhood. We all know that the media would be camping at Police headquarters every night if 10 or 11 white women were missing from Mayfield Hts. The serial killer knew this also and was able to stay under the radar for the last few years by preying on transient African American women. Are their segments of our community that are just forgotten?
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