The death of Gabby Petito by strangulation is certainly a sad story, made even more disturbing by the allegations that it was done by her fiance. For weeks we have seen news stories and photos about this young woman who was obviously in a violent relationship as the couple went on a grand adventure across the country. For Gabby, it was her last adventure.
The outcome of this scenario makes me want to scream at any woman (or man) who continues to be part of an abusive relationship. So let me say it now, if anyone, ever, for any reason, raises a hand to you, get out. Please, just leave and never, no matter what, do not come back. I know it sounds impossible but there are groups out there to help you.
Call me: I will send you a list of such groups.
As we were bombarded with pictures of this young couple, I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of other young women who are missing, the ones not in the headlines. Why is that, I asked myself. I am, of course, referring to the ones who have a different skin color.
The media claims it is our racist judicial system. I believe it is a bit more complicated. It takes a community to insist on action. When was the last time you saw a manhunt across the country for an indigenous woman, a Latino woman or an African American woman? When have you seen unending television coverage for such a woman?
I am not sure I ever have. I guess the national media didn’t think they were cute enough, their parents didn’t know the right people or, frankly, there just isn’t a good reason as to why.
People talk about racism, and this one-sided kind of journalism fosters it. The national media promotes what they want instead of treating these cases with equality, the kind that could produce positive outcomes.
They could act, instead of preach.
They could be a solution, instead of feeding the beast.
There is so much they could do. But let’s be honest, they only care about ratings.
In the U.S. and Canada, indigenous homicides boast some chilling numbers. In Canada, between 1980 and 2012, indigenous women and girls represented 16 percent of all female homicides while constituting only 4 percent of the female population. The homicide rate being almost six times higher that the rate for other women.
In the United States, indigenous women are more than twice as likely to experience violence in their lifetimes than any other demographic. One in 3 Native American women is sexually assaulted, and 67 percent of their attackers are of a different ethnic origin.
Many of these missing women and young girls have been taken by sex traffickers, a fact that most legislators won’t even discuss for many reasons, discomfort and disbelief.
Some still live back in the dark ages where they believe “this only happens to women who deserve it.”
We must get past these antiquated ideas if we are ever to move forward. It all begins with us, and we have to carry the ball over the line to our legislators time and again until we make a touchdown.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has announced the creation of a task force in her department called the Missing and Murdered Unit. It is the first of its kind, and it will help to put fresh eyes on murdered and missing indigenous women. It’s long overdue.
A bill that might have given tribes the opportunity to prosecute domestic violence offenses against natives and nonnatives on the reservation, stalled in the Senate under the last administration after passing the House. Its failure to pass has made reservations havens for those who seek to harm women.
While federal prosecutors have had the right to prosecute cases on tribal lands, it has been a political game of hardball to give the tribes the right to prosecute these crimes themselves.
Idaho has a rich heritage that includes several tribes across our state. It’s time we find an Idaho solution to this problem. I would propose a summit with tribal, state and federal officials to be held in Idaho. Come to the table with solutions and don’t leave until there is a path forward.
If we all remember that any one of these women could be our daughter, sister, mother or wife we can get the job done.
Agidius represented Latah and Benewah counties in the Idaho House. She lives in Moscow.