HONOLULU — The average profile of a missing child in Hawaii: 15-year-old, female, from the island of Oahu, and a native Hawaiian. That’s according to a new report that says much more disaggregated racial and gender data is needed to combat the scourge of missing and murdered Native Hawaiian women.
The key findings of the report, the first of its kind released by a task force created by the state Legislature last year to investigate the issue, include that more than a quarter of missing girls in Hawaii are native Hawaiians and that members of the US military play an outsized role in the sexual exploitation of children in the state.
Similar studies have shown that indigenous women in Canada and the continental US are murdered or disappeared at rates disproportionate to their population size. While the troubling trend held for Native Hawaiian girls, a comparable and reliable statistic for Native Hawaiian women eluded the task force due to lack of data, said Nikki Cristobal, lead researcher on the report. The task force was created amid renewed calls for people to pay more attention to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and other people of color after the disappearance of Gabby Petito, a white woman, in 2021 sparked a extensive national media coverage and extensive searches by law enforcement. . Petito’s body was later found in Wyoming.
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One of the difficulties in addressing the problem is that determining the true scale can be difficult because many cases are unreported or not well documented or tracked. Public and private agencies also do not always collect breed statistics. And some data lump together Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, making it nearly impossible to identify the degree to which indigenous Hawaiian peoples are affected. About 20% of the state’s population is Native Hawaiian.
Several states formed similar panels after a groundbreaking report from the Urban Indian Health Institute found that of more than 5,700 cases of missing and murdered indigenous girls in dozens of US cities in 2016, only 116 were recorded in a database. of the Department of Justice.
The Wyoming task force determined that 710 Indians went missing in that state between 2011 and September 2020 and that Indians made up 21% of homicide victims despite making up only 3% of the population. In Minnesota, a task force led to the creation of an office dedicated to providing ongoing care and leadership on the issue.
Agencies like the state, police departments and the military need to get better at collecting and retaining disaggregated data, Cristóbal said.
“Native Hawaiian women and girls are displaced not only by violence, but also by data collection in every department and on every island,” she said.
One of the most disturbing findings in the report was the role of service members in child abuse. Publicly available data in 2022 showed that 38% of those arrested for soliciting sex online from law enforcement posing as 13-year-olds during undercover operations were active duty military, according to the report.
In response to a request for comment on the findings, a Defense Department duty officer said the message was being sent to the right person.
Violence such as “selling and buying girls for sex at military bases, hotels, arcades, massage parlors and in our own communities” affects Native Hawaiians at much higher rates than other populations, Cristobal said.
The findings are surprising but not new, said Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women and co-chair of the task force.
“Instead, it vindicates and validates what Native Hawaiians, sex trafficking and gender violence service providers, and feminist activists have been saying all along and have been told they were exaggerating or manipulating facts or simply providing an anecdote. “, said.
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