Never underestimate the power of a small group of individuals to create change, for indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
LaWanda Ravoira, D.P.A., is President and Chief Executive Officer, PACE Center for Girls Inc. This private, nonprofit organization and nonresidential program was founded in 1985 as an alternative to incarceration and detention of adolescent females. Today, 17 PACE centers throughout Florida offer support services to girls ages 12 to 18 who are identified as at risk or are already involved in the juvenile justice system.
The National Girls' Caucus, an advocacy group initiated by PACE (Practical, Academic, Cultural Education) Center for Girls, Inc., focuses national attention on the unique needs of girls involved with the juvenile justice system. Although discussion regarding juvenile justice reform continues to take place at national, State, and local levels, at-risk girls continue to be misunderstood and underserved. Advocates continue to fight to save our youth from the negative influences that reach far beyond the concerns of earlier generations of adolescents. The warning signs that should call adults to action on behalf of at-risk girls are clear and compelling, yet services for girls are severely lacking in most communities. Following are some sobering statistics that show what life is like for many teenage girls today:
Homicide is the third leading cause of death for African American girls (ages 5 to 14), the leading cause of death for African American women (ages 15 to 24), the fourth leading cause of death for white girls, and the second leading cause of death for young white women. For all other races/ethnic groups, homicide is the fourth leading cause of death for girls and the second leading cause of death for young women (Anderson, Kochanek, and Murphy, 1997).
Girls are sexually abused almost three times more often than boys (Sedlak and Broadhurst, 1996).
Victims of rape are disproportionately children and adolescent girls. In a report from the Center for Women Policy Studies, two-thirds of the convicted rapists surveyed stated that their victims were younger than 18, and the vast majority reported that they knew their victims (Tucker and Wolfe, 1997).
Each year, nearly 1 million teenagers in the United Statesapproximately 10 percent of all 15- to 19-year-old femalesbecome pregnant (Maynard, 1996).
Eating disorders are more prevalent among girls. Eighty percent of high school girls report unsafe dieting practices in an attempt to reach an ideal body image portrayed by the media (Pipher, 1994).