Plague-stricken Native Hawaiians missing and murdered

HONOLULU (AP) — The average profile of a missing child in Hawaii: 15, female, from the island of Oahu and of Hawaiian descent. That’s according to a report released Wednesday that says much more race- and gender-disaggregated data is needed to address the scourge of missing and murdered Native Hawaiian women.

Key findings from the report, the first of its kind released by a task force created by the state legislature last year to investigate the matter, include that more than a quarter of girls missing 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 Americas are murdered or missing at rates disproportionate to their population size. While the concerning trend is 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, the report’s lead investigator. The task force was created amid renewed calls for people to pay more attention to missing and killed Indigenous women and girls and other people of color following the 2021 disappearance of Gabby Petito, a white woman. , which sparked widespread national media coverage and extensive law enforcement investigation. . Petito’s body was later found in Wyoming.

One of the difficulties in solving the problem is that it can be difficult to determine the true extent because many cases have not been reported or have not been well documented or followed up. Public and private organizations also do not always collect race statistics. And some data lumps together Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, making it nearly impossible to identify the degree to which Native Hawaiian people are affected. About 20% of the state’s population is of Hawaiian descent.

Several states have formed similar panels after a groundbreaking report by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that of more than 5,700 cases of missing and killed 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 Indigenous people went missing in that state between 2011 and September 2020 and that Indigenous people made up 21% of homicide victims despite making up just 3% of the population. In Minnesota, a task force led to the creation of a dedicated office to provide ongoing attention and leadership on the issue.

Agencies such as the state, police departments and the military need to better collect and maintain disaggregated data, Cristobal 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 report’s most troubling findings was the role of the military in child abuse. Publicly available data in 2022 showed that 38% of those arrested for soliciting sex online from law enforcement posing as a 13-year-old during undercover operations were military personnel in active duty, according to the report.

Responding to a request for comment on the findings, a Defense Ministry duty officer said late Wednesday that the message was getting to the right person.

Violence such as “selling and buying girls for sex on military bases, hotels, game rooms, massage parlors, and in our own communities”, has a much greater impact on Native Hawaiians than on native Hawaiians. other populations, said Cristobal.

The results 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-based violence service providers, and feminist activists have always said and have been told exaggerate or manipulate facts or simply provide an anecdote,” she said.


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