Subscribe to get “Centering Girls in Systems Change” in your inbox.
“There is no such thing as a ‘child prostitute’. They are all victims.” (Yasmin Vafa)
After avoiding federal prosecution for over a decade, Jeffrey Epstein is facing sex trafficking and conspiracy charges involving dozens of girls as young as 14. His trial is tentatively set to begin in June 2020. The indictment is largely due to investigative reporting by Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald, who more recently reported that “at least a dozen new victims have come forward,” since Epstein’s indictment.
“[the Epstein case] exposes the ‘pipeline of vulnerability’ that spans our nation, entrapping youth in sex trafficking, due to circumstances beyond their control,” writes Pamela Norick in the Seattle Times. This includes youth who are impacted by, “homelessness, weak foster care systems, domestic violence, discrimination based on race and sexual orientation, and other societal problems.” The case has also brought attention back to Rights4Girls’ longstanding #NoSuchThing campaign—which emphasizes that there is no such thing as a child prostitute—as media organizations continue to refer to Epstein’s victims as “underage women” instead of children, or refer to his charges as “sex with minors” rather than rape and sex trafficking.
R. Kelly, who was already facing a litany of local charges in Chicago and New York, is now looking at two federal indictments for producing child pornography, obstructing justice, and other crimes against 10 girls and women, “eight of whom were underage” at the time the crimes were committed.
“Rape—more than murder, more than robbery or assault—is by far the easiest violent crime to get away with.” (Barbara Bardley Hagerty)
“In 49 out of every 50 rape cases, the alleged assailant goes free” according to reporting by Barbara Bardley Hagerty for The Atlantic’s “Presence of Justice” project. Emily Peck notes this fact in a piece for the Huffington Post, saying: “You don’t have to be a millionaire or a celebrity to get away with abusing girls…anyone can do it.”
The rape kit backlog of over 225,000, state-by-state statutes of limitations for reporting sex crimes, and the rampant disbelief many sexual assault victims face are beginning to gain more attention: In Salt Lake City, survivors of sexual assault are now able to track their rape kits online, and Washington state effectively removed its statute of limitations for sexual assault against youth under age 16. However, “increasing prosecution rates of those accused of rape does not heal victims or center their experiences,” says Stefanie Mundhenk Harrelson, “instead, [the criminal legal system] retraumatizes victims, makes communities less safe, and perpetuates rape culture.”
System Responses to Domestic Violence
A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that “a higher rate of firearm ownership is associated with a higher rate of domestic violence homicide in the United States.” This higher rate disproportionately impacts women, who are more likely to be victims of domestic homicide, particularly given that increased rates of gun ownership do not correlate to the rate of other types of homicide.
“Mothers who report abuse—particularly child abuse—are losing child custody at staggering rates.” According to a new study from George Washington University, mothers lost custody 28% of the time they reported child abuse and/or domestic abuse in a custody hearing, while fathers lost custody 12% of the time they made similar allegations.
Administration’s Child Separation Policy “More harmful, traumatic, and chaotic than previously known” (Committee on Oversight and Reform)
A new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform finds that, under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, “at least 18 infants and toddlers under the age of two were taken from their parents at the border and kept apart for 20 days to half a year.” The report also finds that migrant children were kept in detention facilities and in government custody longer than previously known or permitted, and that even in instances where children were reunified with their family, they often remained detained.
An Office of the Inspector General report further highlights the need to address “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.” Among the report’s findings: 31% of children in custody had been held longer than the 72 hours permitted in the Flores Agreement, over 50 unaccompanied minors were under the age of 7 and had been in custody for over two weeks, and at three out of five facilities, children did not have access to showers or clothing.
Invest in Communities
Impact Justice’s new report, Nothing Good Happens Here, analyzes the potential closure and repurposing of two detention facilities in California to more successfully meet the needs of the communities in which they reside. In Virginia, where Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center closed two years ago, Candice Jones says, “it’s time to continue this trajectory by investing in community supports, from mental health services to job programs to mentorship, that keep vulnerable youth where they belong — at home in their communities.”
A new toolkit from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice guides juvenile justice advocates through the process of engaging their Senators and Representatives locally – from attending town hall meetings to setting up meetings with Congress members.
The newest in Chapin Hall’s Voices of Youth Count series, Missed Opportunities: Pathways from Foster Care to Youth Homelessness in America, finds that 29% of 13-25 year-olds and 44% of all young people experiencing homelessness (who were interviewed for the report) have spent time in the foster care system. The report offers recommendations “opportunities to ensure that young people with a history of foster care successfully transition into adulthood”.. A report from the Williams Institute at the University of California School of Law, examines inequality and structural drivers that drive LGBTQ youth into the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. According to the report, “sexual minority girls are especially overrepresented” in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Recommendations for future research include engaging in youth-led participatory models.
In Oregon, a newly passed bill championed by teens, will expand excused absences in school to include “mental health days,” responding also to the state’s high rates of suicide among those age 10-34. National rates for adolescent suicide are currently the highest on record. In addition to experiencing higher rates of violence than other US women, the suicide rate for American Indian and Alaska Native women is up 139% from 1999.
Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts should call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both services are available day or night, including weekends.
A new paper from Meghan Gabriel Pataky, Johanna Crewswell Baez, and Kristen J Renshaw, “Making Schools Trauma Informed: Using the ACE Study and Implementation Science to Screen for Trauma” uses Wediko Children’s Services’ school-based universal childhood trauma screening protocol as a “case study to assist other schools and community-based mental health agencies in administering universal screenings.”
Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison-Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities, a briefing report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, finds that “disparate use of discipline for students of color and for students with disabilities suggest that some schools and districts may be applying disciplinary policies in unfair and possibly discriminatory ways in violation of federal civil rights protections.” In the 2013-14 school year, students with disabilities accounted for 12% of students with one or more out of school suspensions (more than twice the amount of students without a disability). Data also shows that one in five multiracial girls of color with disabilities were suspended.
According to a report from the Center for American Progress, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not adequately protected the civil rights of students who identify as LGBTQ. The report details ways in which she has scaled back protections for LGBTQ students, including rescinding Obama-era guidance “that protected transgender students,” attempting to remove SOGIE questions from the National Crime Victim Survey for 16- and 17-year-olds, and refusing to investigate complaints about bathroom and locker access for transgender students.
“Reproductive justice is a model for organizing for human equality and well-being.” (Dorothy Roberts)
A new lawsuit from the ACLU and SisterSong seeking to block Georgia’s abortion ban is reframing the “pro-choice” and “anti-choice” conversation, arguing that the new law “disproportionately affects people of color, people struggling financially, and rural Georgians, who are least able to access medical care.” New research from scholars at Middlebury College finds that a reversal of Roe v. Wade would result in an increase in travel distances to obtain a legal abortion for 39% of girls and women age 15-44, and “low-income people who couldn’t afford to travel to a legal clinic would be most affected.”
The American Medical Association is suing North Dakota over two laws; one that forces doctors to tell patients that medication abortions are reversible, and another that requires doctors to tell patients that abortion terminates “the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” which the AMA argues “unconstitutionally forces physicians to act as the mouthpiece of the state.”
Over 80 organizations have signed on to endorse a blueprint for reproductive health that focuses on: “ensuring sexual reproductive health care is accessible to all; that health care does not have discriminatory barriers; that research and innovation advances sexual health, rights, and justice; that health, rights, justice, and wellness are available to all communities; and that judges and executive officials advance these issues.”
- Girls for Gender Equity is hiring a Deputy Director of Development
- The United State of Women is hiring a Programs Intern and a Communications Intern
- True Colors United is hiring a Public Policy and External Affairs Directorbased out of their Washington, DC office.
- Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence is hiring two positions: Social Change Legal Assistant and Social Change Attorney.
- Impact Justice welcomes Requests for Proposals for PREA Targeted Implementation Planning and Support (TIPS) – a new federal funding opportunity for “locally operated small-to-medium-sized jails, juvenile facilities, community confinement facilities, lockups, and tribal facilities that are seeking to become sexually safer environments.” Deadline to apply is August 30th.
- Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Childhood Trauma – House Committee on Oversight and Reform
- Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System – House Judiciary Subcommittee
- Strengthening Federal Support to End Youth Homelessness – House Subcommittee on Education and Labor
- The Epstein Case is Not an Outlier: Child Sex Trafficking is Pervasive in the U.S. – Yasmin Vafa on PBS News Hour
- Campaign for Youth Justice’s Summer Reading List
- In New York, over 100 homeless students graduated from high school
- The CHANGE Act, introduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro, would remove the words “alien” and “illegal” from U.S. federal immigration law
- A proposed change to “categorical eligibility” under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, would take benefits away from over 3 million people
- Following a $610,000 lawsuit, the New York Police Department is modifying a policy that permits the shackling of pregnant suspects
- Manslaughter charges have been dropped against Marshae Jones, who was shot in the belly during a fight while pregnant and lost her baby
- Listen: Dr. Nadine Burke Harris discusses her role as California’s Surgeon General, screening for ACEs, and more
- New consensus report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, Vibrant and Healthy Kids: Aligning Science, Practice, and Policy to Advance Health Equity “outlines steps needed to move children who are at risk for negative outcomes toward positive health trajectories”
- Tax dollars are funding “crisis pregnancy centers” – or ‘fake’ abortion clinics that try to dissuade people from getting abortions – in 14 states
- Cultural Capital: Girlhood Interrupted – Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality’s Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity (Washington DC, September 8)
- National Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking – National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (Scottsdale AZ, September 9-11)
- Free Her National Conference 2019 – National Council (Montgomery AL, October 3-6)
“Why should we encourage lying to our parents and teachers? Being open to adults about our mental health promotes positive dialogue that could help kids get the help they need.”
Source:Hailey Hardcastle, 18
Subscribe to get “Centering Girls in Systems Change” in your inbox.