This piece is about girls in the US but the same issues apply here in Britain. Young girls who come into contact with the criminal justice/ juvenile justice system here are also more likely than boys to have been sexually assaulted and that is reflected in their offending and substance misuse. These problems are only exacerbated in a system that has neither the expertise (not necessarily through a fault of its workers) nor resources to address girls’ particular issues. Full report is here (PDF).

Girls are often funneled through a sexual-abuse-to-prison pipeline, the report says. They often end up in the system as a result of sexual victimization, such as when sex trafficking survivors are arrested on prostitution charges, and then are denied resources to identify and treat their trauma.

Girls are most often arrested for crimes such as running away, substance abuse and truancy—acts child abuse experts frequently name as signs of abuse. Moreover, women offenders tend to self-report their victimization “as a key factor leading to their offending,” the researchers found.

According to the report, which looked at both regional and national data, justice-involved girls:

  • are dramatically more likely than justice-involved boys to have been sexually abused
  • are most likely to be “fondled or molested” at age 5
  • tend to be charged again after release if they have been sexually abused, while sexually abused boys do not

When these girls are arrested and charged instead of supported, the study contends, their abusers go unpunished and their trauma unrecognized. This leads to devastatingly dismal mental health outcomes in many girls, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): In a 2004 study, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) discovered that over 65 percent of justice-involved girls had experienced PTSD symptoms at some point in their lives.

[“In addition, juvenile justice facilities frequently lack the resources necessary to care for abused girls, both in terms of mental and physical health. Not only are half of justice-involved youth placed into facilities that do not provide mental health evaluations for all residents, but 88 percent live in facilities that lack professional licenses for their mental health counselors. Meanwhile, while sexually abused girls are significantly more likely to have been or be pregnant upon incarceration, the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) found that only 18 percent of juvenile justice facilities provide pregnancy testing at entry.”]

The report makes several practical and legislative recommendations for dismantling the sexual-abuse-to-prison pipeline, including reevaluating the potentially traumatic effects of routine procedures such as strip-searching; continuing treatment for trauma after leaving the system; and providing gender-specific physical and mental health care, such as comprehensive reproductive care.

Source and rest: msmagazine


p class="wordpresspost">(Excerpt etc. first posted on feimineach.com. Orig. attribution above.)

Research: The Juvenile Justice System is Failing Girls