Missing Adults: Runaways, Pseudocides

Whether adults go missing intentionally or unintentionally, there is almost always vulnerability involved. Sophie Lapham, The Guardian

When things in life get too rough many people throw up their hands and declare, “I just want to run away.” While some do in effect make themselves missing, most reconsider, realizing the dire consequences should they actually ignore those responsibilities they’re currently loathing.

Research conducted by the Universities of Glasgow and Dundee several years ago regarding the phenomenon of missing persons revealed that 36% were adults, 75% with diagnosed mental health problems (Independent). The latter statistic may indicate that many cases involved less than fully intentional or rational motives.

Unlike many runaway teens, adults who flee often try to devise a find-me-proof plan. Interestingly, most interviewed for the UK research didn’t go far from home but hid relatively nearby: “For the majority of adults, their journeys involved staying local and visiting familiar places. The risks for some adults was balanced by the recognition that ‘if I had gone somewhere I didn’t know, it would have been a lot harder to get through the next few days because I wouldn’t know where anything was’.”

From the University of Glasgow site: “The journeys are very stressful and although people may not know they are officially reported as missing, they realise someone may be trying to trace them. Many are unsure what will happen to them if they are located by the police, with some fearing arrest, and often they are surprised to be treated with sympathy and understanding.”

In this country intentional runners are called by the police the maliciously missing, according to Discovery.com. More details:

It’s not uncommon for people to choose to vanish if they are facing a criminal trial or jail time; in fact many have constructed elaborate staged deaths to throw the police off their trails (a person who skips out on bail or a criminal running from the law is considered ‘wanted,’ not ‘missing’).

Others who vanish voluntarily are fleeing intolerable conditions such as domestic abuse. Some have mental problems, while others just want to start fresh somewhere else; others fake their own abductions, often in a bid for sympathy and attention…

Then there’s the issue of  pseudocide, about which Elizabeth Greenwood has a relatively new book. From the publisher’s blurb about Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud (2016): “…[The author] learns that love is a much less common motive than money, and that making your death look like a drowning virtually guarantees you’ll be caught. (Disappearing while hiking, however, is a great way to go.)”

RandomHistory.com notes some other interesting points about missing adults in the U.S. Among them:

  • Minorities, those who suffer from mental disorders, and substance abusers who go missing often receive little attention from authorities and little sympathy from the press or public.
  • In most jurisdictions, missing persons cases receive low priority. Authorities are already working homicides, robberies, rapes, assaults, traffic issues, and crime prevention.
  • According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), 355,243 women were reported missing in 2010 compared to 337,660 men.
  • Scholars note that the media focuses more on women, especially white women, who go missing because of society’s apparent obsession with “damsels in distress.” In other words, people are interested in cases in which young, beautiful, often blond, girls have been abducted and are in need of rescue. This is called “the missing white woman syndrome.”
  • Frank Ahearn, a skiptracer (a term for people who find others), says that people intentionally go missing for usually two reasons: money or danger. Men usually leave because of money, and women because of danger. While the bulk of intentional disappearances were once men, more and more women now choose to bail out.

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