Dashad "Sage" Smith has been missing since November 20th in Charlottesville, Virginia. A 20 year old woman of trans experience, she had met a man on Facebook from Minnesota, we are told. This man, Erik McFadden, according to the news reports came to Charlottesville from Minnesota and was to meet her at the Amtrak station, as reported in The Daily Progress. He was described in the press as a "person of interest", was interviewed by the local police and then disappeared. His whereabouts are not known, yet the local law enforcement has not seemed to upgraded his status to that of a "suspect".
Members of the Charlottesville area LGBT community are fearful for community members' safety and are angry about their belief that a lack of attention has been mounted as when a young female University of Virginia student disappeared after leaving an AC/DC concert the year before last.
Whether law enforcement has devoted the same intensity of effort in trying to find out what happened to Sage is difficult to ascertain. The University of Virginia student's were very wealthy and were able to bring tremendous attention to bear through their wealth through the media. Ms. Smith's family are of far more modest means and the attention to this potential crime has not been near the manitude of the attention directed to the U.Va. student.
No doubt, many will label this a hate crime if Ms. Smith is not found to be safe. My opinion is that this was not a hate crime, but a sex crime. The victim happened to be a woman of trans experience.
Young people are particularly vulnerable and Ms. Smith being of trans experience undoubtedly made her more vulnerable. She is a woman of color and is not as privileged as many of us in the trans community. As difficult as our lives can be at times, we who are white, have the benefit of good educations and better employment opportunities are not as likely to fall victims to sexual preditors. As lonely as our lives can be, it is easy to see how a young person who has little life experience can be exploited by a preditor who tells us we are attractive and desirable, and seem to be so attracted to us that they are willing to travel long distances to meet us and promise us love, romance, security and companionship.
Those are the ingredients that make the more emotionally vulnerable members of our community disregard everything we have been taught about personal safety growing up. This seems to be a growing problem in the age of electronic social networking. It bears discussing in depth and widely in as many forums as possible to educate people, particularly young people that these dangers are, unfortunately more and more present in our society and that we need to use restraint and good judgement in meeting people we have never met before after becoming acquainted to some degree on line.
I pray that Sage Smith is found safe and well. But with every day that goes by with no trace of her whereabouts, after searches of the city and surrounding areas, hope grows dimmer that she will be found alive.
Please join me in prayers for Sage and if, by a miracle, you read this and happen to have even the tiniest shred of information that might be helpful in solving this missing person case, please call the Charlottesville, Virginia Police at 434-977-4000.