When Invisible, Addicted and Ill Women Disappear: A Cry for Cleveland

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I grew up 2-1/2 miles from the place in Cleveland, Ohio where the police found the decomposing bodies of 11 women.  The victims whose bodies have been identified so far are Nancy Cobbs, Tishana Culver, Telacia Fortson and Tonia Carmichael.  Some were younger. Some were older.  Many were drug addicted.  Some had criminal records.  All of them were African-American.

As the public learns more about the ongoing investigation, the picture of the Cleveland police is not positive.  They failed to take seriously reports of missing women.  The police repeatedly ignored complaints from citizens in the accused killer’s neighborhood.

The New York Times reports (here) that three separate police stations refused to take a missing person report from the aunt of one of the mssing women.  Another victim’s mother says that she, too, was rebuffed by police when she tried to file a missing-person report:”They [the police] belittled it and made jokes …. They told me to wait a while because she would return once all the drugs were gone.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris asks  here, “[W]hat is the point of government, neighborhoods and families, if we fail to sound alarms  and investigate  when people disappear?”  Phillips places some blame on the community itself:

An accused serial killer appears to have efficiently gone about his work because he knew that many families in this community are indifferent to their women, leaving them to suffocating isolation because of addictions or mental illnesses.

We don’t go looking when they come up missing. And when their corpses start to stink to high heaven, this community simply pinches its nose and walks away.

Anthony Sowell is holding a mirror to our collective faces.

He’s not the only monster I see.

But it is not just families in this community who are indifferent to “their women.”  The police were, too.  Each of us — we who live in that community and we who do not — is indifferent.  Every time we are silent in the face of poverty, addiction, violence or mental illness, we are indifferent to women (and men) who suffer.  Every time we close our eyes, our noses, our hearts to human suffering, we are indifferent.  Every time we elect officials who allow government to remain unresponsive to the needs of its citizens, we are indifferent.

-Bridget Crawford

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