Missing Persons is a Symptom

of Policy Actions

July 25, 2021 (Updated Aug. 3)

by Sean Kullman

After the disappearance of a California man a few weeks ago and a report on missing persons in California, Global Initiative for Boys and Men looked at national data to address an issue that impacts over 600,000 families annually. There is, additionally, missing persons in any given year who are not found and whose cases are still open, placing a greater strain on law-enforcement with limited budgets, limited personnel, and new missing persons reports. There are several reasons males and females go missing, including mental illness, domestic abuse, being the victim of a crime, suicide, and a number of other causes that are partly the results of the social conditions that lead to people going missing in the first place.

While many missing persons return home on their own, (approximately 44% of adults and 68% of children according to data from a California Office of Attorney General Report), some of the unhealthy conditions people return to and the reasons some are still missing are outcomes partly related to public policy. Homicide research out of the University of Columbia recognizes that “bias dually inhibited male victims from reporting their abuse and public support services, such as police and health care, from recognizing them as victims....The study identified several findings where there were missed opportunities to help and support male victims.”

Preventing Missing Persons cases could be relieved by offering social programs comparable to those afforded to women and girls, such as domestic abuse services and an office of men’s health to match the already established Office of Women’s Health, White House Gender Policy Council, Violence Against Women Act, and the many other local, state, and national programs that aim to create positive outcomes for women and girls. Additionally, the strain on law-enforcement resources impacts the ability of law-enforcement to do its job properly in finding missing persons. Historically, law-enforcement does a good job finding missing persons. One DEA officer in California shared that Missing Persons Departments become a casualty of limited law-enforcement resources. While Global Initiative for Boys and Men supports programs that help women and girls, policy makers and others must recognize a lack of services for boys and men as a moral and ethical flaw under the law and the reason GIBM encourages equitable programs for males and females.

Although some argue males are less likely to advocate for themselves and the reason their outcomes are poorer in certain areas, it is essential to address the social realities that there are fewer vehicles for them to do so and little in the way of a male narrative at the local, state, and federal levels to promote the needs of boys and men, particularly in the areas of education, court systems, mental and physical health, relationships, public discourse, and career.

It is not as simple as male bravado and males who are unable to express their needs as the root cause of poor outcomes. There are sex differences in emotional processing and expression and the lack of programs for boys and men that take this into account, something addressed by Philip W. Cook in Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. Suspension and expulsion rates in schools, for instance, are overwhelmingly male yet few schools address the ways boys and girls need different educational approaches. Low-income fathers who are unable to afford legal representation when it comes to custody disputes feel desperate but have little recourse and the courts knowingly allow these fathers, their children, grandparents, and other relatives a lesser chance at healthy family dynamics. These pressures point to a few reasons boys and men feel desperate enough to go missing and worse.

Missing Persons is part of a larger social consequence, and the reason we need policies that benefit all boys and men and girls and women equitably. If we are aiming for a fair and just society, we must recognize the pattern of unequal support for males in far too many facets of public policy that are knowingly willful acts that hurt males and females.

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