Up to 80 percent of girls in some states' juvenile justice systems have a history of sexual or physical abuse, says a new report from the Human Rights Project for Girls quoted by the New York Times. The report recommends that girls who have been sexually trafficked no longer be arrested on prostitution charges. The study, “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls' Story,” found that sexual abuse was among the primary predictors of girls' involvement with juvenile justice systems and that the systems were ill-equipped to identify or treat the problem.
“Our girls, and especially our girls at the margins, are suffering, and what the study shows is how violence is part of their lives and how the response is criminalization,” said Malika Saada Saar of the project, which conducted the research with the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the Ms. Foundation for Women. The report's authors say girls involved in criminal behavior receive far less public attention than boys because there are far fewer girls in juvenile detention centers and because crimes committed by girls do not usually involve violence. Laws in many states allow the police to arrest girls as young as 13 on prostitution charges, even when they are victims of sex trafficking.