This is the first installment of investigative articles written by Roxanne Walters.  Thank you for allowing us to republish your amazing work! 

What I want is for YOU, yes you, to do something about the victim-blaming of Karlie Lain Guse. I want you to STOP doing it to Karlie.   But to do this, you have to understand exactly what “victim-blaming” is.

Victim Blaming Defined

Victim blaming is a form of a disparaging act that occurs when the victim(s) of a crime or a violent act is held responsible for the crime that has been committed against them.  Victim blaming can be overt or covert. Covert victim-blaming is not always as straightforward as making a comment directly about a victim or their actions.  After reading the definitions, does it ring any bells to you now?   No?

If Examples Are Needed

If that is so, then here are some examples:
 

Friday night, I picked up Karlie from town, she was supposed to be at a football game. She had lied to me and told me that she was at the football game.

Melissa Guse. October 22, 2018 Live Video

She lied about going to a football game and was with friends smoking pot. Nothing to suggest anything that would cause Karlie to leave unless she was leaving due to being ashamed of something she did. 

Jamie Standifird comments on the OBKGH (Official Bring Karlie Guse Home)

The dateline thing is what started that. Yeah, she [Melissa Guse] lied. She was told not to give out details in case they would help solve the case. She also didn’t want to portray Karlie in a bad light right out the gate. 

Jamie Standifird Facebook comment

Earlier in the year, Karlie’s grades plummeted, and she got in trouble for coming to class while high on marijuana. Karlie admitted to Melissa she was high. It wasn’t her first time. ‘I really messed up today.’ Zac and Melissa told her the misbehavior needed to stop.

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Zac acknowledges that, given Karlie’s recent troubles, it’s possible she ran away. ‘Maybe’s there’s things she kept from us. Who knows?’ 

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Karlie could have been embarrassed for what she did, got up to take a walk trying to clear her head

Gina Pisciotta

Regarding the truth about Karlie:  she called a suicide hotline a month prior to October 13th, she had a counselor through Inyo Medical, she had a troubled relationship with her boyfriend at the time, and she began some recreational drug use

Travis Moore, Riddle of the Roads, American Crime Journal

So, this is hard right now.  Because I just, I don’t want people to judge her.  Kids smoke pot all the time

Melissa Guse, October 22, 2018, Facebook Live

I Don’t Want People To Judge Her

If Melissa Guse does not want people to judge Karlie, why did she go on Dr. Phil and call Karlie a liar? If Melissa Guse does not want people to judge Karlie, why did the OBKGH promote the first Las Vegas Review-Journal article that Doug Kari wrote describing Karlie as “troubled” and hypothesized that she was on LSD?  The article says, “Zac acknowledges that given Karlie’s recent troubles, it’s possible she ran away.  Maybe there’s [sic] things she kept from us.  Who knows?”
These are only a few examples of the covert and overt victim-blaming.
Melissa routinely brings up that Karlie “lied about the football game”.  That is distancing behavior and victim-blaming and shaming.  Her stepdaughter is missing, the football game is not relevant to her disappearance, nor should it be used to continually shame and blame Karlie by calling her a liar to the public.

It is heartbreaking that Karlie has been victim shamed and blamed over lying about a football game when the adults in her life seem to lie on a regular basis.

It is always something “she did” in regards to Karlie’s disappearance.  When a bad thing happens to somebody, it means THEY are a victim.  A victim should be treated thusly:  Sympathy, caring and with zero references to preventative behaviors that should be taken by the victim.
Think about how you’re coming off.  You sound like you are telling Karlie that it is her fault.  This is terribly damaging, no matter what the situation. In the 8 minute audio Melissa secretly recorded of Karlie on October 12, 2018:
 

Melissa asked [Karlie] how the football game was in the first few minutes, knowing Karlie didn’t go to the game

Karen Alford comment on FB

Karlie Knew She Was Not Safe

Karlie could be heard telling her stepmom:
 
“I really messed up today”, and Melissa tries to soothe her by saying, “We all do things in life that we regret, drugs especially”   (Las Vegas Review-Journal).
• After Melissa urges Karlie to get some sleep, then Karlie responds, “No, I don’t want to go to sleep. You’re going to kill me.”   (Las Vegas Review-Journal).
• “I’m so glad you came” and “I love you” but also asking “Are you going to call 911?” and • “Am I going to live until tomorrow?”   (Las Vegas Review-Journal, A Year Later, Still No Answers To California Teen’s Disappearance).
• Karlie’s shaking voice conveyed deep angst, saying she didn’t want to sleep in case she was killed and asking Melissa to call 911 if needed. The teary teen apologized and continued in something of a panic mode.  (Fox News).

Words Matter

Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger.

Scared is a feeling based on a rational fear.

Afraid is a worry that something undesirable will occur or be done. It is the anticipation of adversity or misfortune.

Paranoid is a feeling based on irrational fear.

Panic is a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons.

Using words like “fear, scared, and afraid,” show that we believe Karlie.

Using words like “paranoid and panic” shows that we don’t believe Karlie and are minimizing and dismissing her rational fear.

Karlie Was Rational

Why is Karlie’s fear rational? Because she expressed her concerns, was not believed or taken seriously, and is now missing.

We should believe Karlie. She did not know she was being recorded. The things she said on the audio were authentic to what she was thinking, feeling, and experiencing on the night of October 12, 2018.

Based on what is “on record” and has been reported regarding the content of the audios, Karlie didn’t want to sleep in case she was killed.  Karlie was afraid to fall asleep that night.  That is different than not being able to fall asleep because of a stimulant.

Karlie was experiencing, “the anticipation of misfortune.” Karlie is now missing.

A Letter To Karlie

Dear Karlie Lain Guse,

To say that you have faced injustice is an understatement.  Your disappearance and the exploitation of your disappearance is more devastating than the word “unjust” connotes.  And yet, it is deeply, deeply unjust that you have had this experience.
You don’t deserve any of this. You don’t deserve to be blamed, shamed, called a liar or harmed in any way. You don’t deserve to be silenced or not taken seriously by a society that minimizes your fears and writes it off as drug-induced paranoia.  It is unacceptable that the adults responsible for you that evening did not believe you or take your concerns seriously.  It is incomprehensible they did not take the basic steps to lock the door or bring the dog into the house that night (Nancy Grace, October 26, 2018).  They [Guse’s] said at the press conference [October 11, 2019], the dog sleeps at your door. 

It is unjust that an irresponsible TV psychologist, who can’t tell the difference between 15 minutes and 45 minutes to an hour, feels confident enough to give his “professional” opinion about the 8-minute audio your stepmother secretly recorded of you while in distress.  You didn’t and still don’t deserve to be doubted or blamed for your fear. 

Let me say that again – None of this is your fault.

Regardless of your story, someone chose to harm you by causing you to become missing, and that decision sits firmly on them.  No matter how your story unfolds, know that this is not your shame to carry.  You were 16 years old when you went missing.  There is nothing, as Jamie Standifird suggested, that you needed to leave over due to being ‘ashamed’.  I guarantee you the adults in your life have done more to be ashamed of than anything in your 17 years. 

While you never deserved to go missing, you do deserve so many wonderful things that life has to offer.  You deserve happiness.  You deserve safety.  You deserve rest.  You deserve care.  You deserve justice.  You deserve love, support, and folks who will not blame, shame or call you a liar. 

Enough Is Enough

It is time that people stand up against victim-blaming and shaming Karlie Lain Guse.  Not sure where to begin? Here’s a great starter resource that helps answer many typical accountability-interrupting questions.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
1) Repeat after me: “It is not Karlie’s fault.”

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
2) Hold the adults and caretakers responsible for her health & safety accountable.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
3) Challenge the enablers.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
4) Mind your language. One of the ways in which we perpetuate victim-blaming is the way we talk about it.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
5) Ask the right questions.  When there is news about Karlie’s disappearance the first question people often ask is related to something “she did.”  Endless speculation regarding drugs that there is no evidence she took.  Burner phones that there is no evidence she purchased. Suggestions that she was fleeing when there is no evidence or ‘witnesses’ who described her fleeing.  These statements generally go unchallenged because of victim-blaming culture and the belief that Karlie, a 16-year-old girl, who was picked up on the evening of October 12, by her stepmother and taken home to her father, is somehow responsible for her safety. Karlie’s friend, a minor, who was also high, did the right thing that evening and made sure to call an adult (Melissa) to get help. Why couldn’t the adults do the same thing?

 


Changing Stories On Dr. Phil


Dr. Phil asked:
Did y’all think about taking her to the ER at this point? Getting a blood test? Figuring out what she might have ingested?

Melissa:
Yep.*
*In Melissa’s October 22, 2018, Live Video, she said, taking Karlie to the ER “did not cross my mind“.

Zac:
I thought about it, yeah. We didn’t.

Dr. Phil:
Shows a map of White Mountain Estates and says, this is the first sighting, the second sighting, and the third sighting so she could be out of the neighborhood in a short period of time.

Zac:
Very short.

Melissa:
Yeah.

Melissa:
I walked from our front door all the way down to where she was last seen and it took me, and I kind of ‘mosey walked’ and it took about 25 minutes.

Dr. Phil:
And that’s not hurrying.

Melissa:
No.

Dr. Phil:
Trying to get away from some imagined threat, she could have been out of there in a fast hurry.


 

Alibi Building and Enabling


What the heck is wrong with you people?  The first witness was 6:30 AM the last witness was 7:30 AM. THAT IS ONE HOUR, 60 MINUTES or 3600 SECONDS.  It is not 15 minutes.  It is not a fast hurry.

No, Dr. Phil, Karlie was not ‘hurrying’. There is no evidence she was on speed.  How do we know this?  Her boyfriend has publicly stated that he was with her all the way up until the time that Melissa picked her up.  There is no evidence she was fleeing from an imaginary threat. Those are your words, victim blamers, not Karlie’s. Stop minimizing, misleading, and misreporting.  Just Stop.  Please give Karlie the respect and honesty she deserves.

Instead of going with the flow, ask the hard questions that get to the heart of what happened to Karlie and puts the spotlight back on those responsible such as, “What is law enforcement/the judiciary doing to hold people accountable and what is the community doing to prevent something like this from happening to another one of their own?”.   Stop alibi building and enabling.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
6) Turn It Into A Teachable Moment. There are a number of typical questions and assumptions that are expressed by people when they hear someone has gone missing. In Karlie’s case, these range from,

If she’s paranoid and young and on speed, she’s not ‘mosey walking’ so she might have been out of there in 15 minutes maybe.

To…

She lied, she was ashamed of something she did, she was out of her mind on drugs, maybe she was on methamphetamine, on LSD, troubled, she had a counselor, she had a troubled relationship, she was told the misbehavior need to stop, her grades plummeted, maybe she had had a burner phone, ran away, committed suicide, stole her brothers stash, had prodromal schizophrenia, had dark thoughts…

statements like that are like telling someone they put themselves in a bad situation and bear the responsibility. These are attempts to displace accountability onto the victim.

Hold The Caregivers Responsible


Use this as an opportunity to school the people who say Karlie’s disappearance is a result of something “she did”, and the importance of holding the adults and caregivers accountable for:
• Refusing or denying the child access to medical care in an emergency.
• Emotional or psychological neglect of a child under the age of 18.
• Not calling 911 for 2 hours after a child was missing in cold temperatures.
• Not calling 911 immediately after “something happened to her”. That “something” was Karlie being missing.
• Not calling 911 until approximately 12 hours after the Karlie requested 911.
Any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation or An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
Any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver that fails to provide for the child in some way that could result in physical, emotional, psychological, or even educational harm.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
7) Hold the media accountable. The way the media report about Karlie’s disappearance is a major factor in upholding and perpetuating victim-blaming culture. The Dr. Phil show, American Crime Journal’s coverage of Karlie’s case, Doug Kari’s first Las Vegas Review-Journal article, and social media groups and their special investigator on OBKGH are prime examples of this.  A 2015 study into the international reporting of violence against women has found that media often sensationalizes domestic violence against women and shifts the focus away from the perpetrator.

Silence Is Not Golden

If you see your local or national newspaper or news channel reporting on Karlie’s cases in this way, call them out on it and challenge them to do better. Some of the ways you can do that include writing a public letter to the editor or starting an online petition asking them to rethink their approach.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
8 ) Get your community educated.  A good start to eradicating victim-blaming attitudes from your community or neighborhood is to start educating as many people as possible about victim-blaming and the importance of supporting the victim and holding perpetrators accountable regardless of their standing in the community.

This can be done in collaboration with your local rape crisis center, domestic violence nonprofit, women’s organization, missing persons organizations, advocacy organizations or police community outreach officers who can work with the community, local schools and local companies to organize and implement talks, townhall meetings and other group sessions to talk about this issue.

Suggestion for Ending Victim Blaming:
9) Support Karlie.  At the heart of victim-blaming is the goal of taking away support for victims in order to protect the perpetrator. Break that cycle by stepping up to unequivocally support Karlie Lain Guse and others who are missing.

There are many ways you can do so, including speaking up to intervene when victims are being shamed or attacked by victim-blamers, helping victims and survivors find the resources that they need to heal and rebuild their lives, and accompanying them to court if they choose to try to bring their attacker to justice. And listen to victims and survivors – always listen and believe victims and survivors.

Believe Karlie Lain Guse.  Don’t dismiss, minimize, or shame her fear. Don’t make excuses or wild stories of her fleeing in 15 minutes.

I would like to know more about Karlie, other than she lied about a football game, called the suicide hotline, left because of being ashamed of something she did, is now a brand name for marketing, makes good content for podcasts, and likes the color teal…She has been dehumanized by the victim blamers.  Reduced to nothing more than an opportunity for people to exploit for personal gain. The media should tell us the good things about Karlie. What do people like about her? What are her accomplishments? What makes her special to her friends and loved ones?

Placing the moral responsibility of a crime or disappearance onto its victim remains a harmful perspective to have.  Instead of speculating and judging the decisions that victims make, the public and the criminal justice system should focus more on the decisions made by perpetrators and those responsible for their care.

The language we use to describe it matters. The message we send about her matters. The photos we use of her matters. Why is an important flier space used with an image of a cloud?  Is a heart-shaped cloud more important than getting her face out there?  The media has a responsibility to talk about missing person stories in a respectful way.

It Takes A Village…

Not only are relatives, friends, and other community members deeply affected when a person goes missing, they have an important role in, and effect on, the initiation and conduct of a missing person investigation. The community must become the eyes and ears for law enforcement.

A Missing Persons Partnership Committee has developed an analysis of the flow of activity on missing person cases, breaking the process down into five phases:

  1. prevention
  2. situation of concern
  3. report
  4. investigation/ response
  5. outcome

The flow of activity can be seen as circling back to prevention since the “outcome” phase should include an analysis of lessons learned in order to contribute to early intervention or prevention of vulnerable women and children going missing in the future.

The media plays an important but complex role in building public awareness. It can contribute to prevention about missing persons and related issues and can assist or hinder investigation efforts.

Missing person policies and practices must recognize that when someone goes missing it is not just a “family issue” but one that involves the whole community. Community engagement can include providing relevant information to police and providing support to the investigation process. The community can also be engaged in prevention efforts to intervene before a person goes missing. Community engagement is hindered by a lack of public awareness and victim-blaming.

Media headlines referring to Karlie’s as a “liar, paranoid, troubled, ashamed of something she did, misbehaving, not a first-time marijuana user, a potential meth user, a potential LSD user, out of her mind, and someone whose grades plummeted” causes harm.

The Missing Women Working Group (MWWG) found that media reports can have a significant impact on the conduct and outcomes of missing and exploited women and children cases in numerous ways:
• Affecting the process of locating missing women and children.
• Encouraging or discouraging the offender to commit more crimes.
• Increasing the public’s feeling of safety or danger.
• Affecting how the community views victims.
• Compromising the investigation and trial.

 

Standardize Investigative Procedures

Law enforcement needs to develop and implement effective media policies and strategies to proactively assist in locating missing exploited women and children and to take steps to mitigate the potential negative impact on ongoing investigations. Some police officers have suggested that concrete guidelines should be established for this purpose.

Karlie’s case needs positive models for handling a missing person case. Nationally we need to move toward standardization of policies and an increased number of personnel with the required specialized skills so unqualified “special investigators” don’t come into a missing person case and solicit tips before they go to law enforcement.

People who say things like,

My uncle ‘worked’ homicide. You can’t legally take a psychic tip to court.  So, they say it’s ‘an anon’ or weave it in with another tip (Jamie Standifird in the Mollie Tibbetts Murder Official Case Discussion Group). [Author’s note: What the actual heck?! People should not be tried in courts based on psychic tips].

It evolves over time [her energy reading aka psychic abilities] (Jamie Standifird in the Mollie Tibbetts Murder Official Case Discussion Group).

I feel or see things more as time goes on (Jamie Standifird in the Mollie Tibbetts Murder Official Case Discussion Group).

I wish I could prove it the way other people want but people who know me don’t need proof (Jamie Standifird in the Mollie Tibbetts Murder Official Case Discussion Group).

We have many more years of research to get to the point of scientific proof but we are getting so close with the ability to measure thought and other advances.  (Jamie Standifird in the Mollie Tibbetts Murder Official Case Discussion Group)

Nothing to suggest anything that would cause Karlie to leave unless she was leaving due to being ashamed of something she did (Jamie Standifird in the Official Bring Karlie Home Page).


We need to take a stand against victim-blaming and hold the media and individuals in missing person cases accountable.

I hope Mono County and the online community will stand up and say enough is enough. 

 

Articles to learn more about victim-blaming: 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226789206_Twice_Hurt_How_Newspaper_Coverage_May_Reduce_Empathy_and_Engender_Blame_for_Female_Victims_of_Crime

http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/POL-2-March-2012-MB-Towards-More-Effective-Missing-Women-Investigations.pdf

https://dailyutahchronicle.com/2019/08/25/opin-openings-chavez-stop-the-victim-blaming-narratives/   

https://www.thelily.com/friends-of-slain-utah-student-condemn-victim-blaming-arguing-that-no-deserves-to-die/ 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/07/01/her-death-is-not-her-fault-friends-slain-utah-student-condemn-victim-blaming/

https://fox13now.com/2019/07/01/friends-push-back-against-victim-shaming-in-kidnapping-murder-of-mackenzie-lueck/

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2019/07/02/her-death-not-her-fault-friends-slain-utah-student-condemn-victim-blaming/Q7lPZb9omwELBxWt0scitK/story.html

https://www.ksl.com/article/46582973/police-identify-person-of-interest-in-lueck-case-former-prosecutor-calls-lack-of-evidence-scary

https://ksltv.com/416828/utah-domestic-violence-coalition-stop-victim-blaming-mackenzie-lueck/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/201907/covert-tactics-manipulators-use-control-and-confuse-you

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/5-types-of-narcissistic-blame-shifting.388/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-survivors-of-malignant-narcissists-dont-get-the_b_59691504e4b06a2c8edb462e