Letter to the editor: Iowa’s missing persons cases point to a need for better safety education

Mollie Tibbetts. — photo via

By Victoria Fejfar, Iowa City

Just a few weeks ago, tragedy struck that resonated from her family, through the University of Iowa community and across the country — Mollie Tibbetts was found dead. Within hours, there were articles flooding the internet about her story, her killer and using her name in pushing political agendas about the state of immigration in the United States today. Mollie’s father publicly stated a plea to stop using her death in the immigration debate. Instead, let’s consider making a point for change to help prevent more stories like this from happening.

To date, there are 39 people that have gone missing in Iowa alone since July 18 when Mollie was last seen alive. My first thought when I heard a fellow Hawkeye had gone missing in a town not far off I-80, was that she was the next victim of the human trafficking that runs through the state. Human trafficking has not been very well studied domestically — many resources and agencies focus heavily on international trafficking. It is very much still a threat at home, and not many people realize how serious a risk it is. I distinctly remember a conversation in high school about a front that targeted the graduating seniors with a too-good-to-be-true job offer, but none of my friends had the thought to be scared. Many parents called into the school to warn them and try to figure out how they had gotten the contact information for a class of over 500. It was later addressed at school that they would not be doing anything, the police had been informed of the problem and it was now in their hands. We were not told more than that, though.

If Mollie Tibbetts is going to be a dinner-table name and referenced in political debates, make it be in the argument for a higher standard of education. Argue that we need to educate children and young adults about how to be safe, whether it is what to do if you get lost in the grocery store or how to be safe when alone at night. Support higher education standards everywhere, to help prevent countless issues from little problems to death. Get our representatives to support legislation like the Reach Act to help educate millions and stop thousands more preventable deaths.

If you are going to be one to use a tragedy to push for change — use it to help make measurable change and prevent more of these tragic stories from happening.

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