We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Relationship of Victimized Girls and Crime

The relationship between girls being abused and their involvement in crime later in life was studied by the National Institute of Justice.[1] It found that when compared with girls who have not been abused and neglected during childhoodabused and neglected girls are:

  • Nearly twice as likely to be arrested as juveniles,
  • Twice as likely to be arrested as adults, and
  • 2.4 times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes.

However, about 70% do not become offenders.

Runaways:  Adolescent females who are unable to end abuse through legal channels often run away and end up on the streets with few legitimate survival options. They are unable to enroll in school or take a job to support themselves because they fear detection. They engage in panhandling, petty theft, and occasional prostitution in order to survive. Runaways may fall under the control of pornographers and pimps and experience subsequent physical and sexual victimization.

Failure to learn social skillsChildhood victimization may prevent girls from learning the social and psychological skills needed for successful adult development. Abused and neglected girls have multiple problems:

  • Lower academic and intellectual performance,
  • More stressful life events,
  • More suicide attempts,
  • Increased likelihood of abusing alcohol,
  • Higher levels of hostility and sensation seeking, and
  • Lower levels of self-esteem and sense of control.

Abused and neglected girls are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and turn to criminal and violent behaviors to cope with stressful life events.

Opportunities for Intervention:  Rather than denying there are women who are serious offenders, we need understand and respond to the mechanisms that lead them to engage in criminal behavior not traditionally associated with women. We need to also pay more attention and intervene when children first come in contact with the criminal justice system as runaways, particularly with those who do so at very young ages. These are steps we can use in preventing the derailment of young abused and neglected girls and help them to lead more healthy and successful lives.


[1] “Research on Women and Girls in the Justice System,” National Institute of Justice, September 2000.

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