Girls of color, particularly Black girls, often are overlooked in conversations about the school-to-prison pipeline, making them more likely to be labeled early on as criminals.
According to research and reports, one in four American girls will experience sexual violence by the age of 18. But, for Black and Brown girls, traumatic experiences of sexual violence often lead them to the juvenile justice system, the sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.
25 percent of millennial-age American men think asking a woman who is not a romantic partner to go for a drink is harassment, according to a recent survey by The Economist/YouGov reports The New York Times 1-17-18.
“When we fail to recognize and appropriately address their trauma, we deny girls the protections afforded to other victims of sexual abuse,” said a Rights4Girls report. “Too often, girls are criminalized for behaviors that are natural responses to trauma—behaviors such as running away or self-medicating through substance use. In the worst cases, they are arrested and detained for prostitution, despite being victims of child sex trafficking.”
Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime. One in three women and one in four men in the United States has experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Husbands are five times more likely to kill wives than vice versa. A third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate male partner or ex-partner, according to FBI reports. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ndv0312.pdf
According to a report by MISSEY, an organization researching the sexual exploitation of youth, a pimp will recruit one in three teens who run away from home within 48 hours.
The instability of family and community, including a history of sexual and physical abuse, makes youth vulnerable to sex traffickers and exploiters.
“If your child or a youth you know runs away, it is important to ask why,” the Rights4Girls report said. “They might simply be testing boundaries as adolescents often do, but there also may be something deeper behind their behavior.
“They might be running toward safety or toward harm,” the report continued.
Nationally, Black girls are 40 percent of all sex trafficking victims, according to a two-year review by the FBI. Los Angeles County reported that 92 percent of Black girls in its juvenile justice system identified themselves as sex trafficking victims. The majority were from poor communities in the southeastern part of L.A. County.
In Alameda County, 66 percent of child sex trafficking survivors were Black girls.
Native American girls, who are a small part of the national population, were five times more likely to be incarcerated in juvenile facilities than White girls. Native American women as a whole had higher rates of experiencing some form of sexual violence during their lifetime, compared to the larger population, according to a National Institute of Justice report.
“African American families comprise 42 percent of welfare recipients…but are 59 percent of poor people shown on television are African American.” “Sustaining Stereotypes” by Lanien Frush Holt in QUILL Summer 2018 www.spj.org/quill
In the last 20 years, the rate of Latina girls being sent to residential placements has almost doubled, which adds to their risk of child exploitation.
Children placed in foster care are three times more likely to be subjected to abuse or neglect, the report said. In 2013, during a nationwide child trafficking raid that covered more than 70 cities, 60 percent of the children that were recovered were from foster care or group homes.
“On many occasions … it is not the pimps who create this vulnerability—mostly they take advantage of it,” said a Georgetown University Law Center report.
As the girls encounter the various types of pimps, they undergo many forms of psychological manipulation. The “Gorilla pimp” uses force to overpower the girls. The “Romeo pimp” uses charms and gifts. The “CEO pimp” uses money and business strategies to swindle the girls, according to Sowers Education Group.
Through these interactions, the girls go through intimidation, threats and isolation. This process causes low self-esteem for the girls.
As the girls enter the juvenile justice systems, they face re-traumatization from routine procedures such as the use of restraints, strip searches or isolation, according to the Georgetown report.
The girls also risk being labeled “bad girls” if they have an aggressive response to this treatment. But in effect, it’s a self-defense mechanism to the history of the trauma, the report said.
More than a third of millennial say that if a man compliments a woman’s looks it is harassment, according to a recent survey by The Economist/YouGov reports The New York Times 1-17-18.
“Major depression is four to five times more common in girls housed in detention and correctional facilities than in the general community,” the report said.
This leads to higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among the girls in the system.
In 2017, California banned law enforcement from arresting minors involved in the sex trade through Senate Bill 1322. The bill directed sex trafficked kids toward social services, rather than cells.
But the change in the law has been slow to alter the culture of some law enforcement agencies, which continue to view these kids as criminals and not victims, said a Crime Report article.
“We would like to see ‘bottoms’ no longer arrested as co-facilitators,” said Megan Lundstrom, executive director of Free Our Girls, based in Colorado. “We would like people to understand that typically pimp and gang traffickers come from the same geographic areas and economic /social/educational backgrounds as their victims, which means there are larger issues such as poverty, racism and discrimination, and gender inequalities that are occurring to further fuel this issue.”
If you or someone you know may be involved in sex trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.