As the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality reported in 2017, “compared to white girls of the same age (i.e. age range of five to 14), adults perceive that black girls need less protection, know more about adult topics, and know more about sex.” Yet they are seen as too childlike and promiscuous to exercise reproductive autonomy over their bodies.
This photograph features Dr. Monique W. Morris at the October screening of PUSHOUT, hosted by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality's Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity.
Holding districts accountable and closing the racial achievement gap is the long game, but the first step is proving the problem’s scale. “People want to hear about the evidence,” says Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, noting that raw DoE data isn’t adequately disaggregated by race and gender. This is where Discriminology comes in. “Traditional school report card platforms are focused heavily on testing,” Pitman says. “We look at everything else.”
In a 2017 research article from the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law, “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls Childhood,” authors Rebecca Epstein, Jamilia J. Blake and Thalia Gonzalez wrote that often times black girls are seen as being older, louder and more difficult...I can speak from personal experience. I was always the tallest girl in class and looked older than my peers. People thought I should say certain things, do certain things and carry myself a certain way. I was 10 years old but looked like a teenager, so when I acted like a 10-year-old, people couldn’t understand why, and they were often frustrated. I never quite felt like I fit in.
On this week’s episode: Dan and Jamilah are joined by poet, performer, and activist Staceyann Chin to field a question from a mom who’s worried she should give her son a year to grow before he starts kindergarten. Scott Brown, author of the YA novel XL and short guy, calls in to help. The hosts also discuss disproportionate expectations of maturity placed on black girls during childhood. For Slate Plus: a question from a mom wondering if she is can worry about her white son’s experience at a school that has predominantly black and Hispanic students. Sign up for Slate Plus here.
Jamilia Blake, Ph.D., a psychologist and associate professor at Texas A&M University who co-authored the 2019 report “Listening to Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias” and its precursor, the 2017 study “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” said adultification impacts black girls early in life...Blake’s work explores how sexism and racism interact to shape our experiences in education, criminal justice and even our social relationships. Her research, which was published in collaboration with the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, suggests that bias toward black girls can lead to less protection and support, and more punishment, among educators and law enforcement.
Research has found the "strong black woman" stereotypes can have significant consequences for black women's mental health, including higher likelihood of depression and a lower likelihood of seeking out help. A data analysis from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality also found people see young black girls as "less innocent and more adultlike than their white peers" and as being more sexual than young white girls; it also found people believe black girls need less nurturing, protection, comfort, and support. Even the Me Too movement, which was started by and for people of color, didn't catch mainstream attention until white women started becoming involved with it.
From a young age, adults hypersexualize and adultify black girls; they’re seen as more mature than their white counterparts and, because of this, adults fail to protect them. The lack of protection allows us to become an ignored demographic; this leads to a world of danger for growing black girls.
Last week, Impact Austin, the women’s giving circle that pools individual donations to make large grants to local nonprofits, announced its first grant to a collaborative project to advance equity for women and girls of color in Central Texas.
The $110,000 grant will fund the “Innocence Initiative,” an effort led by Measure Austin to address the adultification of African-American girls. The new grant marks a change for the 18-year-old giving circle, which has made a more concerted effort in recent years to improve the diversity of its members while also addressing equity issues in the community.
Times have changed since the 1930s, and girls’ experiences in the criminal justice system have too. Yet echoes of my grandmother’s time remain. According to the report “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline,” published by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, the Ms. Foundation for Women and Rights4Girls, girls in the criminal justice system are disproportionately victims of sexual violence. In addition, like my grandmother and her fellow female juvenile inmates across America in 1935, girls often enter the criminal justice system for minor status offenses like running away, truancy and curfew violations that are themselves responses to abuse. Although girls account for only 15 percent of the juvenile detention population, they are 38 percent of the youth detained for status offenses.
Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality released a study, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, in 2017 about perceptions of innocence in black girls. The study found that black girls aged 5-19 are viewed by adults to need less protection, nurturing and support than white girls of the same age. It also found adults believe black girls know more about sex and adult topics.
Black children are unable to hold onto a childlike innocence that white children can cling to, simply because of prejudice and bias. This “adultification” affects school disciple and suspension. If they are older, they should “know better.”
Black girls make up just 16% of the female student population in the country, but account for more than one-third of all school-based arrests. A 2007 report in the journal Youth and Society found that Black girls were penalized for deviating from social norms of female behavior, and in particular for being “loud, defiant, and precocious.” Research from Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality has also found that, compared to white girls of the same age, Black girls are perceived as more adult and less in need of nurturing, protection, support, and comfort.
Research shows one obstacle women and girls who are incarcerated face is sexual assault. The sexual abuse to prison pipeline is real and it starts young. Thirty-one percent of girls in the juvenile system have been sexually abused, according to a 2015 report by the Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Ms. Foundation for Women.
Teachers may misinterpret trauma-related behavior — struggles to focus in class, sleeping in class, being irritable — as being disrespectful. In addition, adults view black girls as less in need of nurture, protection, support and comfort than white girls of the same age, according to research by Jamilia Blake and colleagues from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality. As a result, school officials might respond to black girls with less compassion and more discipline. Police may act on these same biases when making decisions about whether to arrest a child.
As the co-author of a groundbreaking 2015 report on sexual trauma and juvenile justice, [Rebecca] Epstein's one of the country's leading experts on the issue. “In many ways, this case is an example of the system responding to a girl of color who has experienced trauma by punishing her," Epstein said. "When we punish these children the same ways we punish adults, it is not accomplishing the goal of increasing public safety. Instead, it’s depriving these girls of the very kinds of supports and services that they need in order to heal, and to thrive, and to be less likely to engage in the type of behavior that’s being punished.”
What little acknowledgment exists, is still geared towards boys’ perspectives. What about Black girls and trans students who experience racism quite differently? ...A 2017 study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality showed for the first time that adults view Black girls aged 5 to 14 as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers. That they needed less comforting, less nurturing, among other features.
The Center on Poverty and Inequality commissioned painter Ashley Joi and photographer Sancha McBurnie to create original works to complement the report, pieces that were displayed at a reception following the presentation. Both artists shared their perspectives with the audience.
Epstein stressed that the Center on Poverty seeks change at a system level, working to train educators and law enforcement officers. But Naomi Wadler, speaking quickly and confidently, also reminded everyone in the room of the power that lies within.
Wadler is also a youth adviser to the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, which in 2017 published a study showing that adults view black girls as less innocent than their white peers. Wadler will be speaking on that study and more Sept. 8 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. If you have experienced “adultification bias,” you can share your story here.
When you are devalued you are disposable. A study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality shows that adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5-14. This leads to the belief that girls entice their attackers and should have been old enough to know the consequences. But it's this kind of thinking that leads people to doubt victims' stories. Physical maturity is not the same as intellectual maturity no matter the race or gender. In fact, adolescents are only beginning to develop abstract thinking skills between the ages of 11-16.
When it comes to faulty assumptions adults levy against black girls, there is perhaps no study more elucidating than Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality’s 2017 report Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood.
...The phenomenon, called “adultification,” can have a profound effect on the way black girls are treated, especially by law enforcement and in schools.
[Naomi Wadler] took the stage [during last year’s March for Our Lives] and introduced herself with a nervous giggle. Then, in an instant, she seemed to harness the strength and fervor of the hundreds of thousands stretched before her. Four feet six inches tall, a child who hadn’t yet retired her Barbies, Naomi said she represented the African American girls and women who are victims of gun violence but “whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news.”
...[Since that day], She would be photographed arm in arm with Gloria Steinem for Vanity Fair and be featured on the cover of New York magazine’s “Women and Power” issue alongside Barbra Streisand... She would be recruited for youth-related boards, including one at Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.
The rate of girls in the juvenile justice system is increasing, according to a 2015 report Vafa coauthored with researchers from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the Ms. Foundation for Women. They found that those girls also experience sexual violence at disproportionate rates.
On the latest episode of @ToTheContrary, Dr. Jamilia Blake and and Rebecca Epstein of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality discuss their research findings that show adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, beginning as young as age 5.
“It’s really striking that in the context of childhood, which is the epitome of innocence, Black girls are not getting the benefits of being viewed as innocent,” Rebecca Epstein, the executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, told Vox.
“Black women and girls really attributed the source of this to the historical roots of slavery and the intersectionality of being Black and a woman,” added Jamilia Blake, a Texas A&M professor and a co-author of the report. “These issues didn’t come out of the blue.”
In recent years, a pipeline from the foster care system to trafficking has gained attention. A report from the Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and Ms. Foundation for Women supports that finding. Titled “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline,” the report found that girls who grow up in the instability of the child welfare system, particularly those placed in multiple homes, are “vulnerable to the manipulation of traffickers who promise to love and care for them. Indeed, some traffickers purposely troll for youth in certain group homes because they are aware of this vulnerability.”
As recent as last week, a report was issued by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality that details stunning statistics and first-hand accounts of how American society and our education system are stacking the odds against young girls of color.
It starts early, says Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37). “It can actually start with pre-school,” she told Our Weekly. “Can you believe it?” Rep. Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, says her and her colleagues are aware and working on legislation to combat the trend. “I am focusing here in Congress on prison reform from the perspective of African-American women and children. It’s not shocking what our numbers are when you see how the labeling starts at a young age.”
Adultification of Black girls starts early, says Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37). “It can actually start with pre-school,” she told Our Weekly. “Can you believe it?”
Rep. Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, says her and her colleagues are aware and working on legislation to combat the trend. “I am focusing here in Congress on prison reform from the perspective of African-American women and children. It’s not shocking what our numbers are when you see how the labeling starts at a young age.”
If you were to write a letter to your childhood self, knowing everything you know now, what would it say?
If you're black and female, you would likely use the word "adversity" a lot.
A new report from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality reaffirms that being a black girl isn't easy.
A survey of 325 adults found that compared with young white girls, people think young black girls need less nurturing, protection, support and comfort. They're seen as more independent, and participants think they know more about mature topics, such as sex. Dubbed "adultification," it's the notion that girls of color, especially those 5-14, are less childlike and, as a result, more likely to be assigned greater culpability for their actions.
Girls who try to improve their situation by leaving the home they share with their abuser often find themselves arrested for running away or truancy, which a 2015 report by the White House Council on Women and Girls notes, “can be symptoms or outcomes of trauma and abuse. Once in the system, girls may be treated as offenders, rather than girls in need of support, perpetuating a vicious cycle that is increasingly known as the ‘sexual abuse to prison pipeline.’" The report also cites that these laws are more aggressively enforced towards young people of color.
Research has already shown that black girls are seen by adults as less childlike than white girls. This phenomenon, known as “adultification,” was first documented two years ago by researchers at Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality. Now, a followup study reveals that, not surprisingly, black girls and women sharply feel the impact of “adultification.” As one study participant put it, “[T]o society, we’re not innocent. And white girls are always innocent.”
When Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality released a report in 2017 showing adults view Black girls as less childlike than white girls, the concept of “adultification” was finally backed by enough data for people to take it seriously.
Now as part of a follow-up study, Georgetown released Listening to Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias, which uses the personal experiences of Black girls and women to detail how the impact of “adultification” affects them.
If you were to write a letter to your childhood self, knowing everything you know now, what would it say?
If you’re black and female, you would likely use the word “adversity” a lot.
A new report from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality reaffirms that being a black girl isn’t easy. A survey of 325 adults found that compared with young white girls, people think young black girls need less nurturing, protection, support and comfort. They’re seen as more independent, and participants think they know more about mature topics, such as sex. Dubbed “adultification,” it’s the notion that girls of color, especially those 5-14, are less childlike and, as a result, more likely to be assigned greater culpability for their actions.
Rebecca Epstein shares her research into how the perception that black girls are more adult-like and less innocent than their white counterparts could increase their chances of ending up in the criminal justice system. National statistics show black girls are suspended more than five times as often as white girls and are 2.7 times more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system.
After a 2017 Girlhood Interrupted study that revealed adults view black girls as more adult-like, Georgetown Law conducted a follow-up study that finds black girls routinely experience adultification bias. The new study is known as 'Listening to Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias.' The co-author of the report, Rebecca Epstein (who also leads the Initiative on Gender, Justice & Opportunity at Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality) came on Cheddar to discuss factors that contribute to adultification and how this form of discrimination is linked to harsher treatment.
Kudos to Jamilia J. Blake and Rebecca Epstein, who recently released their findings in a study on behalf of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality which looked at adultification bias toward young black girls and women.
The introduction to the study revealed how Blake and Epstein previously conducted research which resulted in the June 2017 release of Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, a report that presented the findings from their quantitative analysis of an form of gendered racial bias against Black girls: adultification – a stereotype in which adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, devoid of any individualized context.
Choosing to focus specifically on black girls, the 2017 study found that adults saw black girls ages 5-19 as in need of less protection and support than white girls the same age, and that black girls were more independent and knew more about adult topics, including about sex.
The women in the focus groups recounted experiences that reflected how “adultification bias” appeared to be connected to their receiving more punitive treatment. One participant, for instance, described an encounter with a police officer who didn’t believe she was 15. He handcuffed and fingerprinted her, insisting she was too old not to carry identification.
A new report reveals findings from focus groups that examined whether a 2017 study aligns with the real lives of black girls and women, and what should be done to address adultification bias.
Through this link, you can download the ~2-minute interview between WAMU 88.5 and Rebecca Epstein, Executive Director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.
A new report details the negative consequences suffered by black women and girls when people perceive them as older than their white peers.
Researchers at Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality reported their findings Wednesday after speaking to groups of black girls and women across the country about whether their real-life experiences reflected what the same researchers found in 2017: the “adultification” of black girls. The women and girls said they did.
Nationally, black girls are suspended more than five times as often white girls, and black girls are 2.7 times more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system than their white peers. “The new research supports our earlier hypothesis that adultification bias is a major contributor to these disciplinary disparities,” Blake said.
When asked for suggestions to help overcome adultification bias against black girls, focus group participants said they hoped that the awareness raised by the Center’s research would lead to meaningful action to decrease this bias, and emphasized that targeted training for teachers and other authority figures would be most effective in helping them overcome their biases.
“Kathleen got so frustrated with Kelly playing with me, so intensely angry, that she grabbed my arm and ran her nails down my arm with both hands and drew blood,” Abraham recalled. “I screamed at her and was like, ‘What are you doing?’ She was like, ‘I can’t play with you because you’re Black; I’m trying to get the dirt off you.” Instead of rushing over to console her, Abraham said, her teachers didn’t react at all. “Just ushered in the class, ‘Stop crying, move on with your day,’ type of thing. It wasn’t until I got home that I got the lesson from my parents on being Black.”
Abraham’s eye-opening experience echoes the findings of a new report on adultification bias—in which adults presume Black girls as being more "adult-like" and less innocent than white peers—released on Wednesday from the Georgetown University Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.
It’s long been suspected that black girls are perceived as more adult-like and less innocent than white girls in school and other environments, and a new report offers further confirmation that this is the case.
Researchers with the Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity at Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality spoke directly to black girls and women across the country about how they are forced to deal with harmful perceptions — like that black girls are more mature and less in need of protection than other students — from a young age.
Research has already shown that adults view young black girls as older and less innocent than their white peers. Now, the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law Center has affirmed the findings of its 2017 study.
Through focus groups conducted with black women and girls nationwide, researchers learned that they are routinely subject to adultification bias – early exposure and engagement in adult-like behaviors. The groups ranged in age from 12 to more than 60 years old. Among the questions, the female participants were asked whether the results of the original study aligned with their lived experiences.
A new study from Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality has found that black girls regularly experience something called adultification bias. In 2017, the center published its Girlhood Interrupted study, which showed that adults view black girls as more adult-like and less innocent than white girls. However, this new research has taken it a step further by discussing these experiences with black girls and women — and getting their input about how it should be addressed.
"[A]dultification,” was first documented two years ago by researchers at Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality. Now, a followup study reveals that, not surprisingly, black girls and women sharply feel the impact of “adultification.” As one study participant put it, “[T]o society, we’re not innocent. And white girls are always innocent.”
...They found a near-universal impact. “Almost all the black girls and women we talked to said they’d experienced adultification bias as children,” said co-author Jamilia Blake. “And they overwhelmingly agreed that it led teachers and other adults to treat them more harshly and hold them to higher standards than white girls.”
African American girls don’t misbehave more or commit more serious infractions, experts say, yet they often receive more severe penalties for the same behavior as white peers. They are nearly six times more likely to get out-of-school suspension than white counterparts, a report from the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies found, and more likely to be suspended multiple times than any other gender or race of students.
They are “adultified” at a young age, according to research by Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality, which found black girls face both racial and gender bias that feeds the misconception that they are more insubordinate and aggressive and less in need of nurturing and protection.
[A]dvocates and researchers say there are ways to close that gap -- and to make sure that black girls are not being pushed out of school and into confinement.
Those remedies include launching restorative justice practices, creating diversion courts, remaking the educational and juvenile justice system and -- as the Office of Civil Rights recommended in closing its Fort Bend investigation last summer -- revising the disciplinary codes to define infractions and procedures more clearly and developing a training program for staffers who enforce discipline.
A new study set for release this week by Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality, which asked black girls and women to share their experiences with adultification and the long-term impact on their lives, also calls for additional training for educators and others in authority.
Then came the topic of adultification of black girls by American society, where they are perceived as being older than their actual age. “Studies show that black girls are seen as adults at age five,” said Wadler. “They’re disciplined more harshly, and they’re seen as less innocent. They’re expected to act as adults, even though they’re children. I don’t think that it’s really affected my platform, but I am aware of that is a very real thing. And I like to talk about it, and raise awareness about it, because it’s just not okay.”
Naomi Wadler is a leader, and the Center on Poverty and Inequality's Initiative on Gendery Justice & Opportunity is proud to work with her. Below is an excerpt from this Teen Vogue op-ed, which covers Naomi Wadler's reflection of her year since her viral March for Our Lives speech.
"Did you know that black girls are almost four times more likely to be arrested in school than white girls? That’s what a 2017 joint study from Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Equality and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute found. Another joint report last year from the Center on Poverty and Equality, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the Human Rights Project for Girls revealed that sexual abuse of one of the major predicting factors of girls entering the juvenile justice system. I share these points to highlight the fact that so much more work needs to be done and why I think we all have a role to play."
The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative found that in 1992, black girls comprised 29% of all girls with juvenile court cases; in 2002, the number was 30%; and by 2009, it was 40%. By all accounts, this increase is not due to a rise in the criminal activity of black girls. It comes down to decisions made by white school officials and police officers – the choice to arrest and detain black girls when their white counterparts are not punished similarly. These decisions, according to an extensive study conducted by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, the Human Rights project for Girls, and the Ms Foundation for Women, have been “shown often to be based in part on the perception of girls having violated conventional norms and stereotypes of feminine behavior, even when that behavior is caused by trauma."
Black girls are also ‘adultified’ in this manner. Recently, Rebecca Epstein and Jamilia J. Blake of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law released a report describing how black girls as young as 5 are perceived as older and less innocent than white girls. Beliefs that black girls are older and less innocent likely contribute to the fact that Black girls are referred to the juvenile justice system at thrice the rate of white girls.
12-year-old activist Naomi Wadler came into the spotlight after speaking out for Black girls at the March for our Lives — her advocacy for young women like herself has only expanded in the months since.
A report published by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality shows that adults view black girls as less innocent and less in need of nurturing and protection.
“It’s disappointing. It definitely makes us feel like black women aren’t valued in our society, and we see it often,” student Tyra Hudson said.
Hudson and fellow student Lyric Harris said they would agree that black women are viewed differently, based on observation and experience: “I think it’s sad. I get sad. We’ve been here for so long, so many generations of black women, and we’re still getting treated less,” Harris said.
Scholars have consistently, insistently, and persistently demonstrated how the intersection of race and gender negatively affect black girls' schooling experiences. Recently, researchers at Georgetown University's law school found that adults view black girls as "less innocent" and "aggressively feminine" in comparison to white girls of the same age. Hence, this week's blog begs the question, since we cannot change society's (mis)perceptions of black girls, "How should schools and districts respond to the discipline disparities affecting black girls' schooling experiences?"
"We're trying to change the master narrative around black girls being loud, mean, promiscuous, and defiant," says Halyard. "We want to flip that question of, 'What is wrong with you?' to 'What has happened to you?' and provide the platform for black girls to speak with their own voices." Likewise, Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality has launched the Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Network for Girls of Color as a space for youth-advised resources to better serve girls of color in school.
During my legal career, I’ve served as a public defender and private defense lawyer. I’ve represented clients in criminal matters including murders, rapes, high volume drug cases, sex crimes, and federal offenses. What I’m going to lay out here may be disheartening, but one of the most important aspects in any trial is believability. The judge or jury’s ability to believe one side versus the other is often the determining factor between a guilty or not guilty verdict. In the law, we use the term believability interchangeably with the term credibility. As for Black women and girls, believability and credibility are not assigned to us the way it is for others. This may sound anecdotal, but research proves it.
A 2017 study from the Center on Poverty and Inequity at Georgetown University Law School, found that Black girls are viewed by adults as more sexually mature than white girls, in the same peer group. This means when Black girls are victims of sexual assault, they are less likely to be believed because adults view them as older than they actually are. Black girls are robbed of their presumption of girlhood, innocence, and sexual virtue. This is problematic on a humanitarian level and carries a significant legal consequence.
A growing number of individuals have expressed support for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ harmful Title IX proposed rules on sexual harassment, including sexual assault, in schools by pitting the rights of sexual assault survivors against efforts to further racial justice.
By doing this, these individuals—often white, self-identified feminists or conservative men—erase the experiences of survivors of color, particularly Black women and girls, who are frequently disbelieved and blamed when reporting sexual assault, pressured to stay silent about their assaults, and pushed into the criminal justice system (referred to as the “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline”).
For many who watched the six-part documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” hearing directly from several women who described sexual abuse at the hands of the R&B star prompted a troubling question: Has Kelly remained popular and largely not faced criminal consequences because his accusers are black?
Rebecca Epstein, a researcher at Georgetown University, thinks so. She co-authored a 2017 study that found black girls are viewed by adults as more sexually mature than white girls in the same peer group. As a result, when black girls are victims of sexual assault, they are less likely to be believed by those who see them as older than they actually are.
“What our research indicates is that black girls face even greater skepticism by the figures that wield such authority over their lives than other victims of sexual violence,” said Epstein, executive director at the law school’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.
A highly-cited paper from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, Human Rights Project for Girls and Ms. Foundation for Women titled "The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline," found "that in a perverse twist of justice, many girls who experience sexual abuse are routed into the juvenile justice system because of their victimization."
Authors of the report say that child sex trafficking is child sexual abuse, though many jurisdictions still view those victims as perpetrators: "These girls are arrested on charges of prostitution even though they are too young to legally consent to sex."
In October 2018, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality's Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity and Rights4Girls published a compilation of girls' visual and written work about their experiences with the juvenile justice system. This project turned a lens toward the girls, providing space for them to speak for themselves and allowing their work to stand on its own. To truly support girls, we must let them lead: We must hear their stories, respect their perspectives, witness their brilliance, heed their creativity, and recognize their resilience. Our publication reflects that philosophy.
A 2017 study from Georgetown Law (Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood) reports that adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5–14 (see graph).
"We thought we might see two parallel lines and then an increase for black girls in high school," says Rebecca Epstein, the study's coauthor. "It's quite shocking that the greatest gap between perceptions of white and black girls is actually much earlier, in the tween years, when girls are forming their identities and these perceptions are likely to impact them much more."
The study, a pilot that Epstein hopes will launch into a more detailed and large-scale investigation of perceptions of black girlhood, revealed common misconceptions about black girls. Specifically, black girls are perceived as knowing more about sex and needing less support, nurturing, and protection than their white peers. This "adultification" bias toward black girls creates a domino effect that informs how they are treated in school and by law enforcement agencies.
Around the world, black girls are being pushed out of schools because of policies that target them for punishment, says author and social justice scholar Monique W. Morris. The result: countless girls are forced into unsafe futures with restricted opportunities. How can we put an end to this crisis? In an impassioned talk, Morris uncovers the causes of "pushout" and shows how we can work to turn all schools into spaces where black girls can heal and thrive.
The voices of Flint girls are included in a new nationwide release by the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University’s renowned Law Center. Published Oct. 25, “I am the Voice: Girls’ Reflections from Inside the Justice System” is a compilation of stories and feelings of girls from across the country.
HerStory: Unlocked — a program that offers instructional workshops in both visual and performing arts for the 10- to 17-year-olds sentenced to the Genesee Valley Regional Center — was invited to participate. Earlier this year, HerStory: Unlocked produced a show at Buckham Gallery called “Arts in Detention.”
Being included in the nationwide publication is meaningful, said co-founder Shelley Spivack, who also is a lecturer at the University of Michigan-Flint.
The need for long-term and specialized care to treat child sex-trafficking victims is increasing. For decades, rescued children wound up being arrested and thrown into the juvenile justice system. But that’s changed in recent years, as states have moved to steer victims toward treatment. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have eliminated criminal liability for minors, with all but one state making the change since 2010, according to Shared Hope International , which works to prevent the conditions that lead to sex trafficking. Experts say some states are reluctant to follow suit due to a lack of services for the children.
“We need more safe spaces where survivors can heal and re-enter their communities,” said Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law.
I stand here today for every black girl. For the girls in this city who are 30 times more likely to get arrested than all other white children combined. I stand here for every black girl who is hyper sexualized by wearing the same school uniform as her white peer and sent home. I stand here today for every black child in this country arrested in a school for violating the racist, antiquated “disturbing a school” law.
I stand here – because I am lucky enough to have a platform and because it is my duty and responsibility to raise awareness of how girls like me are treated in schools in this city and around the country.
The people in this room know the statistics better than I do for sure. The work and research of the Georgetown Poverty Center should be required reading for every local and federal elected official and for every school superintendent, principal, teacher and resource officer.
Two Georgetown University pilot studies found that girls and young women [who had been through trauma and] who did yoga reported better self-esteem and developed skills that they could use in stressful situations — taking care of their own children, for example.
A former student in juvenile hall spoke about the impact of yoga: "Most of us [in juvenile hall] come from traumatic childhoods," she says. "It was the only time you experienced a quiet time, when everything was so chaotic."
WASHINGTON — Black girls are nearly four times more likely to be arrested at school than their white counterparts and Latina girls are almost three times more likely to be arrested in elementary school than white girls, a new report says.
Researchers at the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute found that the explosion of police in the nation’s schools is forcing increasing numbers of black and brown girls into the school-to-prison pipeline.
Researchers built in part on a 2014 report that concluded black boys are wrongly perceived as older than their actual age and are more likely to be viewed as guilty when they are suspected of a crime. The Georgetown study sought to determine whether there’s a similar effect for black girls—whether adults identify them as less innocent and less child-like than white girls of the same age. The results were resounding: Not only do the researchers report that “black girls were more likely to be viewed as behaving and seeming older than their stated age,” they also find that this dynamic is in place for girls as young as 5 years old.
The study surveyed 325 adults from different racial, ethnic, and educational backgrounds, and from different regions of the country. (Most were white and female.) The researchers asked some participants about their perceptions of black girls, and some about white girls of the same age. Questions included: “How much do black [or white] females need to be comforted?” and “How much do black [or white] females seem older than their age?”
Adults think that black girls are less innocent, less in need of protection and nurturing, and seem older than similarly aged white girls, which could lead to stiffer punishments in school, a new report said Tuesday.
The report entitled, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, also said American adults think black girls know more about adult topics and about sex than white girls of the same age. And those perceptions are greater when it comes to younger black girls ages 5-9 and 10-14. The discrepancy continues to a lesser degree with girls ages 15-19.
Study: Black girls viewed as ‘less innocent’ than white girls
Adults view young black girls as less innocent than white girls of the same age, a new study has found, indicating that children’s race may affect how their actions are perceived.
The report from Georgetown University law school’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, released Tuesday, found that black girls, particularly those age 5 to 14, are seen as more sexually mature and know more about adult topics than white girls in the same peer group. The result, authors Rebecca Epstein, Jamilia J. Blake and Thalia Gonzalez wrote, is that black girls experience “adultification,” and are not afforded the same childhood benefits as whites.
A new report by the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law School shows that yoga programs can be particularly effective at helping girls who are incarcerated cope with the effects of trauma that many have experienced. Research shows yoga and mindfulness can promote healthier relationships, increase concentration, and improve self esteem and physical health.
Such programs, if offered more broadly, would be a cost-effective way to help one of the country’s most vulnerable groups heal and improve their lives, the report says.
“There are promising practices out there, on a relatively small scale, but we know they can help more girls,” said Rebecca Epstein, director of the center and a co-author of the report.