Unfortunate is an understatement when we talk about the fate of a lot of children who end up in juvenile detention. They wind up even more traumatized over reasons that they rarely have control over like the circumstances and family they’re born into . The consequences are direr even for girls of color and LGBTQ girls fueled by a culture that perpetuates inaccurate beliefs and undesirable behavior.
Rights4Girls, a human rights organizations committed to ending gender-based violence in the United States, joins Justice Clearinghouse to share their advocacy. Cherice Hopkins and Rebecca Burney are attorneys at Rights4Girls who raise awareness about The Girls’ Story. Cherice is a Staff Attorney who provides consultation to organizations founded by women and people of color and focuses on policy research, education and reform. Meanwhile, Rebecca is an Attorney and Equal Justice Work Fellow with experience working with survivors of sexual abuse and serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
Cherice and Rebecca discussed details of the report The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story. Some of the points include:
- Statistics that highlight the extent of sexual violence for girls of color and an overview of what the Abuse to Prison Pipeline is.
- The correlation of child and sexual abuse to the system involvement of girls and other contributing factors.
- The profile of girls in the system that suffer higher rates of depression, other health conditions, and PTSD due to abuse and sexual violence.
- The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) that have been identified to negatively impact children’s health outcomes in adulthood.
- The conditions that girls enter the juvenile justice system with.
- Nadine Burke Harris’ study on how trauma manifests in kids through learning, behavioral and health problems.
- The consequence of failing to recognize trauma in young girls subjected to abuse and violence such as self-harm, substance abuse and trust issues, among others.
- The cycle of criminalization and victimization that girls go through when trauma isn’t addressed properly.
- The common pathways that lead girls into the system through status offenses, crossover from child welfare, family violence, homelessness, net widening, and domestic child sex trafficking.
- A deeper look into domestic child sex trafficking that dissects the profiles of the survivor, the intersection with foster care, and the racial and gender disparities.
- How the system unintentionally exacerbates trauma through practices and measures that aim to create safety, order, and security.
- The vicious cycle that causes girls who are/were involved with the juvenile justice system to end up marginalized with fewer opportunities and access to basic needs/rights as housing, education and jobs.
- The abuse to prison pipeline fueled by myths about girls of color, rape culture and lack of data to understand and address the issue.
- Dismantling the pipeline through awareness, education, prevention and intervention, alternative methods to detention, multi-disciplinary action, and changing the culture.
- Other recommendations that tackle comprehensive healthcare that includes mental health and trauma-informed care, employment opportunities in communities vulnerable to sex trafficking, and holding those causing harm accountable instead of the victims.
- Rebecca and Cherice clarified points raised during the Q&A on:
- Categories of crimes that victims of abuse are likely to commit.
- Resources used for the webinar.
- Locking up juveniles to keep them safe and proposed alternatives to this method
- Training those working with juveniles about trauma-informed practices instead of assuming delinquency.
- Ways different agencies may collaborate to address the abuse to prison pipeline.
- How the pipeline impacts the LGBTQ population.
- “Amazing information and presenters! So informative and well-presented.” –Vicki
- “Data on foster care and trafficking – sobering but very important.” –Ken
- “How the victimization of girls continues even after behaviors are reactions to abuse experienced. I found it interesting and alarming that a majority of the girls being victimized are girls of color and the majority of the abusers in the case of sexual solicitations are of white men. It feels like as much as we try to change things, some seem to remain the same. It is heartbreaking, but I only hope it only motivates people more to become involved to make changes.” –Leigh
- “I did not know that this was such a problem. It opened my eyes.” –Kenneth
- “There were excellent insights into the reasons girls enter the juvenile justice system and what their unique experiences and needs are. This is helpful in working with staff to help them understand why girls, and their needs, are different. Thank you!” –Sue