Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
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To be a part of the solution, NewsOne will profile a missing person weekly and provide tips about how to keep your loved ones safe and what to do if someone goes missing, while TV One‘s newest show, “Find Our Missing,” hosted by award-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson, tells these stories in visual form.
The body of Ivanice Harris, the Portland woman who went missing in Hawaii while celebrating her birthday, was found nude on a beach Monday.
Harris, who was in Waikiki celebrating her 29th birthday, was last seen by her friends last Thursday outside of a bar speaking with a man. Harris worked as a traveling escort and advertised in various online publications, reports The Oregonian. Jillian Gibides, one of the women Harris was traveling with, also reportedly told a local Hawaii newspaper that Harris worked as a prostitute.
The Oregonian reports:
Harris has a criminal record in Oregon for theft and tampering with evidence but no prostitution convictions. But both Harris and Gibides have an extensive footprint on escort websites. While early reports about her disappearance indicated that Harris was simply vacationing in Hawaii, she and Gibides appeared in a joint ad on May 11th marketing their services together in Waikiki Beach. Both women had posted previous escort ads in Hawaii over the last year, including one in April 2012 in which Harris explicitly stated money “exchanged is strictly for my quality time.”
Police in Hawaii declined to confirm whether Harris was working as an escort. Harris’ family confirmed her death on a Facebook page they set up to help find her. They are also seeking financial help to bring Harris’ body home.
Ivanice’s body was the body found in Hawaii yesterday. Ivanice’s family would like to THANK everyone for their support throughout these last five days and would also like time to be in peace alone w/ no calls, texts, emails, or visits at this moment. They truly are appreciative of everyones outpouring of support NATIONWIDE.
Harris’ remains were found in a brushy area on a beach in Wai’anae, which is a 50-minute drive from the bar where she was last seen alive. Honolulu homicide detectives are investigating the case. No cause of death has been determined and police have not named any suspects.
Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, said Harris had family and friends who loved her.
“Our thoughts and our prayers go out to her family. She did not deserve this. She has a mother and sister who were looking for her. Whatever her profession does not negate the fact that she was missing,” said Wilson. “Sex trafficking is a big issue here in the United States.”
According to a study from Shared Hope International, the average age that minor children in America enter the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old. Many of the victims are runaway girls who have suffered sexual abuse as a child.
“So by the time that they’re Ivy’s age, they really feel that they lack any choices to do anything else. They don’t have any job skills; they don’t have any formal education or training,” Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery Executive Director Kathryn Xian told KHON 2.
Pimps lead the women to believe that they will protect them and that they will be safe but nothing could be further from the truth.
“It’s highly violent. It places the girl and woman at risk on a daily basis for sex assault, physical violence and emotional, spiritual, and mental trauma,” Xian said.
Wilson said Harris’ case should serve as a warning. More and more, Wilson said, the Black and Missing Foundation is dealing with young girls who run away from home only to end up being sex trafficked.
“If Ms. Harris was an escort, we want this to be an example to our young girls and women that this is a dangerous occupation,” said Wilson.