Teleka Patrick case: Missing doctor story shouldn’t be overshadowed by stalking sensationalism

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Dr. Teleka Patrick (Video still via WESH-TV)

Dr. Teleka Patrick (Video still via WESH-TV)

Dr. Teleka Patrick is missing.

On December 5th, Dr. Patrick, 30, disappeared after a shift at Borgess Medical Center where she is a resident.  Dr. Patrick’s is a first year resident in psychotherapy.  Her purse and cell phone were found inside the hospital and her credit cards, ID, and keys were found inside of her car found abandoned in a ditch on Interstate 94 in northern Indiana.  Dr. Patrick was nowhere to be found.

Enter the sensational media, which for a moment has decided to report the news of a missing woman who isn’t blonde, leaking details of restraining orders, and unconfirmed tweets, to create an image of Dr. Patrick as a mentally unstable woman.  What does Dr. Patrick allegedly sending gospel singer Reverend Marvin Sapp a ton of correspondence have to do with her disappearance?  It only serves to give the public the impression that an unstable Dr. Patrick (cough because you know how emotional women are cough) ran away or is somehow culpable in her disappearance.

For the past month, Dr. Patrick’s family has pleaded for help to find their loved one in the face of news reports that over-analyze a Twitter feed attributed to her.

“There are so many details that have been revealed during the course of this investigation that confuse and hurt us all the more.  Regardless of Teleka’s emotional state, we believe wholeheartedly that she has encountered some harm or danger. It is unlike her to go any significant length of time without any contact with family or friends.”  Jim Carlin, a private investigator hired by the family, told the Associated Press Friday, “The family’s position is they did not know this was going on, and regardless of what may or may not be accurate, the focus today is to focus on what happened Dec. 5 and bring her home.”

The media is in full throated salacious best with details of tweets and YouTube videos Dr. Patrick allegedly posted online over the past few years.  People headlined its story “Missing Doctor Mystery: Do Her Romantic YouTube Videos Hold the Clue?” speculating that short videos Dr. Patrick posted online could be connected to her disappearance.  Wood TV posted alleged tweets of Dr. Patrick which she writes about God speaking to her and talking about an “underworld.”  The reporting on the tweets seem like a thinly veiled attempt to paint Dr. Patrick as mentally disturbed and even at worst perhaps partly to blame for this entire incident.

It isn’t the norm that a missing black woman garners national headlines.  The tragic trajectory of a doctor who mysteriously disappeared has piqued the media’s interest but their coverage of the incident has quickly shifted from concerned helpers to speculative meddlers.  The latest revelation that Dr. Patrick was serially infatuated with gospel singer Reverend Marvin Sapp is making headlines certainly because of his name recognition but also because the alleged, yet troubling history of possible harassment of Reverend Sapp fits perfectly into a “crazy black woman” narrative that serves to shift blame.

Right now Dr. Patrick’s family is still looking for her and the media is portraying her twitter feed in an intentionally unflattering way.  Social media can be a crucial tool in assisting law enforcement but that shouldn’t give the media free reign to use the postings of a missing woman to fit very ugly gender and ability stereotypes.  No out of context tweet or obsession with a celebrity gospel singer should detract from the certain sadness her family is experiencing now.

Let’s wait to find out what happened to Dr. Patrick and hope that wherever she is she’s safe and can be reunited with her family very soon.

Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.