Why do girls need HERStory?

I wish the world saw me for who I really am, not who they want me to be. -HERStory Alumnus

Did you know…?

Seven in ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way when asked about their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members.1

  • 20% won’t give an opinion
  • 25% won’t go to a social event, party, or club
  • 15% won’t go to the doctor
  • 16% won’t go to school

Serious side effects plague girls with low self-esteem. They are significantly more likely to engage in negative behaviors.1

  • 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking, or drinking
  • 25% of teen girls with low self-esteem resort to injuring themselves on purpose or cutting
  • 25% of teen girls with low self-esteem practice disordered eating, such as starving themselves, refusing to eat, or over-eating and throwing up

These stats are disconcerting, but many may sound familiar to you. Here are some figures you may not have heard before2:

  • Girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system
  • 16 states had a >25% increase in incarcerated girls between 1997 and 2006 (mostly in the South and West)
  • On average, girls enter the system younger than boys
  • The types of offenses for which girls are arrested and incarcerated are less serious than boys
  • Incarceration for for girls is less than half that of boys (11% and 24%, respectively)
  • Girls are most often incarcerated for simple assault, property offenses, and
  • Girls of color are over-represented in the justice system
  • LGBT youth experience discrimination in the system, which is ill-equipped to deal with their needs
  • Girls in the system often have a history of abuse, and experience further victimization when incarcerated
  • Girls have greater mental health needs: approximately 70% of incarcerated girls have been exposed to a traumatic experience
  • Offenses that land girls in incarceration are often committed against family members, and family problems (ineffective parental supervision, frequent parent/child conflict, and troubled family history) are strongly linked to girls’ delinquency

Pathways to delinquency and related behaviors are different for girls than boys3:

  • Girls have higher rates of substance use, abuse, victimization, depression, and anxiety
  • Though equal in frequency, girls have distinct personal and social effects regarding family and peers and high-risk sexual behaviors
  • Girls also have high rates of behaviors not typically seen in boys, like dating older partners and self-harm

The facts above range from unsettling to alarming. So, what can we do? The Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency funded National Girl’s Institute offers these Recommendations for Services:

  • Provide trauma-informed care: Recognize that girls’ pathways into the justice system may be different from boys and girls typically have high rates of abuse and trauma.
  • Understand the role of relationships: Girls often state they just need someone to listen to them. They often look to staff to be positive role models. Effective practices with girls will involve paying attention to and understanding the significant relationships they have in their lives.
  • Respecting girls’ differences: While many girls share similar experiences as females, there are important differences which must be acknowledged. Being culturally responsive and aware of differences in class, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, gender expression, and other differences are keys to effectively work with girls.

HERStory is designed with these specialized needs in mind. The storytelling inherent to HERStory is structured to illuminate and celebrate the differences of experience and break the silence around trauma and abuse. Click the links below to find out more:

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2. National Council on Crime and Delinquency(NCCD) Center for Women and Girls

3. Salisbury and Van Voorhis, 2009

Violent offenses include criminal homicide, violent sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault
Status offenses are actions that are criminal for a certain class of people (i.e. minors) and include running away, truancy, underage drinking and tobacco use, incorrigibility, and curfew violations
About Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem:

Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self Esteem, commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, was conducted online among 1,029 girls 8 – 17, and is representative of the U.S. based on census indicators (region, ethnicity and parental education.) An additional 3,344 girls 8 – 17 were surveyed in a targeted study that was conducted in 20 major U.S. cities representative of each DMA based on ethnicity and parental education. The research was conducted by StrategyOne, an applied research consulting firm, in collaboration with Ann Kearney-Cooke, PhD. Methodology: Interviews averaged 15 minutes and were conducted between May 6 and May 28, 2008 using the online field services of ResearchNow.