From the Preface to the Amicus Girls Study:
Any parent of a teenage girl can relate. At some point in even the best relationships, the question comes up in a mother’s or father’s mind: “What am I doing wrong?” Those involved with girls in Minnesota’s juvenile justice system sometimes find themselves going through a similar self-inventory. Some professionals tend to believe it’s just easier to work with boys.
But what about the other side of the relationship? Many girls in the system feel they don’t have a voice: that people are viewing them more as the embodiment of their destructive behavior rather than as individuals with insights and opinions that should be heard.
Despite the efforts of thousands of dedicated service providers, girls in Minnesota’s juvenile justice system have endured many hardships.
When compared to boys, research shows that girls have:
• experienced more significant sexual abuse and trauma history;
• engaged in more risky sexual behavior;
• experienced more significant physical and mental health problems;
• engaged in more self-defeating behaviors, including running away and skipping school.
• worst of all, many victimized girls who run away from home are revictimized through their recruitment into prostitution and trafficked for the financial benefit of traffickers and pimps.
Any wonder that too many find themselves in the criminal justice system?
The cold statistics sometimes belie the poignant stories that reveal young women - girls - caught in a web of troubles that leads them straight into the juvenile justice system, often labeled "bad" girls by their family and classmates.
In the past few years, the number of girls entering the juvenile justice system has increased at a faster pace than that of boys, and the trend continues. In 2007, 33.5% of the juveniles arrested in Minnesota were girls, almost 15,000 that year. Girls also represent over 44% of Minnesota’s out-of-home placement population—over 6,500 girls in 2007. Resources for gender-informed corrections programs have not kept pace with this expanding demand.
The study goes on to say that (no doubt, like the rest of us), girls need to be heard - listened to in ways we don't always listen to young people - or each other, sad to say, when the other is hurting, perhaps to the point of self-destruction.
TTT's ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN bring together the Amicus study's authors and advocates with professionals and policymakers to talk about these issues and what comes next for the thousands of girls caught up in the system.