LaShawndra Vernon, a nonprofit management professional who has worked on the issue of human trafficking, calls on the media to respect the lives and legacies of women killed by intimate partners.
On March 7, Fox 6 aired a piece about a beautiful 19- year–old young lady who was savagely murdered by a 30–year–old man. In the article on the Fox 6 website, the reporters cited messages from the murderer, referring to her as a prostitute, and stating his self-reported motives. The violent nature of the crime was unbelievable. She was beaten repeatedly with a pipe and stabbed six or seven times. Based on the murderer’s report, she shortchanged him by $40. Somehow the murderer was given a voice.
But what about the voice of the murder victim? What about the voice of the family that never once referred to their daughter, sister, niece, friend as a prostitute? Prostitution is a criminal charge, it is not a human characteristic or description. The fact that the media, in this instance Fox 6 Milwaukee, feels comfortable re-victimizing the family of this and countless crimes in this community is the reason for my open letter.
Here are a few things I would like to say to the press:
1. When reporting on a murder, the person who turned themselves in is the least reliable source to tell the story. What is your motive as a media outlet? If your intent is to cause more harm than good you don’t deserve to inform the public..
2. Prostitution is an act, a citation, a record. It is not and never will be a description of a human being. Even if there was an agreement to exchange resources for sex it doesn’t give anyone the right to take a life. Lives are invaluable, and that includes sex workers.
3. The media continues to be a vehicle for racial and gender oppression. It’s almost as if you’re in a competition to be the most deplorable purveyors of information. Journalism should be an art form. Mass media is a bad joke told repeatedly.
4. Black women are the backbone of this nation. For some reason that makes the media mad. Guess what? We, the black delegation see you and we judge you for your crimes against humanity. We know that if a poor little white girl had been brutally murdered in central Milwaukee from Mukwonago the story would have been about how she was lured into the evils of big bad Milwaukee. Consider yourselves called out.
5. The way the article is written it makes it seem like the age difference isn’t a factor. It is. Any 19–year–old girl dealing with a 30–year–old man is in over her head.
6. This crime is still being investigated. Details of this crime will continue to surface. Like any crime that includes murder there are layers and levels to the how and why. Media, you do more harm than good when you prematurely report your half-baked research in an effort to be first.
7. This city is dealing with a human trafficking epidemic. Girls are being wooed into a lifestyle with false promises. Young people are participating in survival sex in exchange for a place to sleep. Young people are exchanging money for sex and don’t even realize there’s something wrong with it. And you’re out here promoting the negative like we don’t have a larger community problem of victimized youth. Your relentless messages of negativity are the root of suicides, sexual assaults and rape. Yes, it’s your fault too.
8. Before you sit down to write another article or prepare another story, do humanity a favor and prepare the content as if you are talking about your mother.
I implore you do no harm, as if you’d taken the Hippocratic Oath. The people in our society are hemorrhaging emotionally and spiritually. Do us all a favor and discontinue your erosion of the human race, and take your hands off of black and brown girls.