Society lacks an understanding of the connection between the cycles of abuse, violence and crime and how our culture values and invests in the needs of girls. Researchers now have a better understanding of the risk factors faced by girls because of their gender, which can derail or delay their healthy development.
Girls’ behaviors for the most part are not violent, but do carry a high societal cost. Research indicates that girls face multiple barriers to success. National and state statistics confirm that girls need – and currently lack – specialized, gender-responsive services to help them overcome these barriers. There continues to be a lack of awareness and commitment to social change concerning gender equity issues. Girls from, or currently living in, at-risk environments will continue to suffer and have difficulty achieving their full potential until these issues are brought to the public’s attention and addressed.
An additional obstacle to systems responding effectively to the needs of girls is the severe lack of gender-specific data and research. Information is needed on who these girls are and in which systems they are involved. And more research needs to be done on effective programs for girls and young women to establish best practice (evidence-informed and -based models) approaches that work for system-involved girls and young women.
Data about girls’ issues and needs:
Studies have found that the percent of victims of child sexual abuse who are female range from 78% to 89%.(Synder, H.N., Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident and offender characteristics, in A NIBRS Statistical Report. 2000, U.S. Department of Justice: Washington, D.C.)
82 percent of victims of child sexual abuse in Oregon are girls. (2008 Status of Children Report)
One in three girls in the United States is sexually abused. (Source: Bolen, R.M. and M. Scannapieco, Prevalence of child sexual abuse: A corrective metanalysis. Social Service Review, 1999. 73(3): p. 281-313.)
Two-thirds of teen mothers have histories of being abused. (Boyer, Debra, University of Washington, 1992) 66 percent of pregnant teens report histories of abuse.(July 1998 – journal of AMA.) Findings from these studies suggest that premature and coercive sexual experiences contribute to adolescent pregnancy by increasing the likelihood that teenagers will have earlier sexual intercourse and a greater number of partners, and decreasing the likelihood that they will use birth control.
52 percent of Oregon’s runaway and homeless youth who access services are adolescent girls. (RHYMIS, 2002-03)
70 percent of girls on the street run away to flee violence in their homes. Many of these girls are at risk of entering prostitution. (Chesney-Lind and Sheldon, 1998)
The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. (Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S, Canada and Mexico, University of Pennsylvania, 2001)
The majority of prostitutes are influenced by their early experiences of sexual abuse and juvenile prostitution is closely linked with running away. (Seng, M.J., Child Sexual Abuse and Adolescent Prostitution, 1989)
Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth. (Davis, Antoinette, MPH. 2008. Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus. PDF available here)
74 percent of suicide attempts by youth in Oregon are made by girls. (Oregon Health Division, 2007)
Girls are 50 percent more likely to suffer from depression than boys. (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1996)
Approximately 73 percent of girls who enter the juvenile correctional system report being victims of physical and sexual abuse. (Chesney-Lind and Sheldon, 1995 cited in Pepi, 1998)
Girls who have been sexually and physically abused are nearly twice as likely to be involved in delinquent acts and illicit drug activity. (Spatz-Widom, 2000; Bodinger-Deuriate, 1991 cited in Sondheimer 2001)
National statistics indicate that currently girls are exceeding boys in achievement scores. They are excelling in academic arenas—such as math and science—that once eluded them. Though men still earn more degrees in science and outnumber and out earn women in technical fields, for years girls have maintained the upper hand in reading, writing, and now receive top scores in biology, chemistry, even calculus.* They are pushing themselves with Advanced Placement courses, taking on leadership positions in their schools, participating in sports teams and after-school clubs. They are reaching out to the community through service projects and internships, all the while maintaining good GPAs.
These statistics are promising, but they do not adequately identify the hardships present for many minority girls. The information presented in surveys and reports indicates that young women have surpassed young men while young people of color continue to fair poorly. These numbers are telling, yet they do not illustrate the alarming reality for girls of color. When we look at specific populations of girls we will see that young women of color are facing significant challenges to success, just like their minority brothers. A closer look at Latinas indicates that they are desperately struggling in their learning environments. They are dropping out of school, facing pregnancies, severe depression, substance abuse problems and delinquency.
According to a 1999 COSSMHO Press report on The State of Hispanic Girls, young Latina women are at a considerably higher risk of engaging in destructive behaviors. “Surveys corroborate that a significant minority of Hispanic girls lead girls nationwide in alarming rates of teenage pregnancy, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse (see data from 2009 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey), and self-reported gun possession. Three of the four most serious threats to the health and education of girls today—pregnancy, depression, and substance abuse—are thereby more prevalent among Hispanic girls, than among non-Hispanic white, or African American girls. Just as alarming is the fact that these dangerous trends appear to be worsening over time.”