From the report: Sasha was raped as a high school student. When news of the rape was circulated in social media, she was ridiculed by her classmates, making it impossible for her to feel safe at school. Sasha immediately became truant. For six months, Sasha’s mother unsuccessfully appealed to school district administrators to transfer Sasha to a safer school environment. In an effort to ensure that Sasha still received her education, her mother attempted to home school her, but the school district threatened to refer Sasha to the child welfare system for keeping her out of school. Because of her extensive, unaddressed trauma and fear for her own safety, Sasha refused to go to school and ultimately dropped out. After two years out of school and without receiving trauma-related services, she was arrested on petty theft charges. Only after her arrest was Sasha referred to a therapist who identified her trauma as the cause of her truancy. With the assistance of an educational advocate, Sasha applied and was accepted to an alternative school that provided a small therapeutic setting and a second chance at graduation. Sasha’s story illustrates a common problem. When schools fail to support girls who are victimized by gender-based violence and harassment on campus, girls no longer feel safe and as a result may disengage, become truant, or exhibit challenging behaviors that are rooted in the trauma they have experienced. Yet instead of being viewed as victims of sexual violence, these girls are often disciplined, including being suspended, expelled, or referred to law enforcement. In Norman, Oklahoma, for example, after rumors spread about the rape of three female students by a male peer, the school reportedly did not act to stop the repeated harassment of the victims. In fact, when one of the rape victims swung a heavy book bag at a student who stated “I hear you like being raped in the ass,” she was suspended along with the student who harassed her.
While girls make up the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice population, their experiences behind bars are rarely at the center of the national youth imprisonment conversation.
A report released this week, The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story, seeks to change this. The report shows how instead of getting help, girls who experience sexual abuse are often funneled into the juvenile justice system, where their traumas are ignored or retriggered.
The report is based on interviews with girls and individuals who work with at-risk youth across the country, as well as reviews of state and federal data.
“It is our hope that this report will establish the uniquely defining impact that sexual abuse and trauma has on juvenile justice involvement for girls,” Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, said on a press call.
Epstein wrote the report along with authors from the Human Rights Project for Girls and the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Though girls make up 14 percent of incarcerated youth, their numbers are on the rise. This is especially true for girls of color. Nationally, African-American girls constitute 14 percent of the general population but 33.2 percent of girls detained and committed; Native American girls make up only 1 percent of the general youth population but 3.5 percent of detained and committed girls.
Evidence suggests these numbers aren’t going up because girls are committing more crime or becoming more violent. Instead, increasingly aggressive enforcement of petty offenses has led to more girls behind bars.
Girls in the juvenile justice system have extraordinarily high rates of past sexual abuse, and have often entered prison for related crimes. While national data remains scarce, regional studies are damning: In a 2009 study of juvenile-justice-involved girls in South Carolina, 81 percent reported a history of sexual violence. In a similar study from California in 1998, 56 percent reported they had experienced one or more forms of sexual abuse.
Source and rest: Report Details Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline for Girls
(Excerpt etc. first posted on. Orig. attribution above.)