The OJJDP-funded National Girls Initiative and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) convened a roundtable to discuss the unintended consequences of mandatory and pro-arrest policies for domestic violence on girls and young women. The purpose of the roundtable was to foster collaboration between juvenile justice advocates, advocates for girls, and advocates for victims of domestic violence.

OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee welcomed participants to the event and explained that the roundtable is one of the ways the Office is putting the recently issued OJJDP guidance policy on girls and the juvenile justice system into practice so that “deliberately and intentionally, we can make the world more just for girls.” OVW’s Principal Deputy Director, Bea Hanson, also provided welcoming remarks.

Presenters highlighted the origins and historical significance of mandatory and pro-arrest policies for domestic violence and discussed the extent to which those policies have contributed to the rise in the number of girls and young women in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Francine Sherman, a professor at Boston College Law School, attributed the trend, partly, to the criminalization of trauma-inducing behaviors. “Girls have consistently been arrested for the kinds of things they’d be expected to do if they experienced trauma,” she said.
Data from a number of states and counties presented at the roundtable show high proportions of girls are detained on account of “adolescent domestic battery,” or fights with family members.

The meeting was attended by several federal officials, including representatives from the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs. Other attendees included juvenile justice advocates, advocates for girls, advocates for victims of domestic violence, law enforcement representatives, researchers, and select state juvenile justice representatives. As a followup, OJJDP’s National Girls Initiative will prepare a paper that will provide a summary of the issues, propose shared terminology, summarize the current situation, and offer policy and practice reform recommendations and considerations.

For an overview of OJJDP’s efforts to address the needs of system-involved and at-risk girls, visit the Office’s Girls at Risk webpage and download OJJDP’s policy guidance on girls and the juvenile justice system.

The OJJDP-commissioned report, Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States, is available online.