Girls Gone Bad

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Girls Gone Bad


rural - Francesca rural - Francesca's picture

[url=]Girls Gone Bad[/url]


No question that, according to a Statistics Canada report last Thursday, the number of females age 12 and up accused of violent crime climbed between 1986 and 2005.


Forget sweet 16. It's now ferocious 15. That's when the charge rate for "crimes against the person" peaks with women.


What's different now is, there are more aggressive female role models out there, from athletes to movie superheroes such as Lara Croft or Kill Bill's Bride character.

So girls will be boys. They, too, resort to justice with a fist.

But is it that simple?

While Statistics Canada offers no explanation for any of this increase, Silja J.A. Talvi, author of the recently published Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, writes, "Girls and women enter the criminal justice system with far higher rates of drug abuse, sexual violence, childhood abuse, mental illness, and experiences with homelessness."

In short, these girls are in trouble from the day they were born.

There's also what Talvi calls, "The Girlfriend Problem," the women who get incarcerated because of a men they support or protect.

Experts postulate that what pushes girls into crime is quite different from what motivates boys.
As criminologists and others who study female offenders say, violent girls are often the product of violent homes, and subject to much more stress – from sexual abuse, in particular – than boys.

"Qualitative studies suggest that abusive and failed relationships are a major source of strain in the lives of many female offenders," note Lisa Broidy and Robert Agnew, co-authors of the research paper "Gender and Crime: A General Strain Theory Perspective." "This strain in turn has been linked to their criminal behaviour."

Most startling is the gross over-representation of native women in the StatsCan data: "While only 3 per cent of female adults in Canada are aboriginal, one-quarter of women serving a federal sentence were aboriginal."

Considering the environments many of these young women grow up in, in extreme poverty, fuelled by alcohol, and often in foster homes or institutions, they have all the strikes against them.


Not only does StatsCan show that men are five times more likely to commit crimes, they're also more likely to be violent, to cause more grievous injury, to face multiple charges and to repeatedly offend.

"Females were far less likely than males to commit homicide, robbery, sexual assault, breaking and entering, motor vehicle theft or mischief," says Statistics Canada. "Rates among females were anywhere from 7 to 10 times lower, depending on the offence."

Where females get most felonious is shoplifting, fraud (such as bad cheques), common assault, bail violations and, of course, prostitution.

But girl crime is more of a man-bites-dog story than a man-robs-bank tale. So it grabs the headlines.

Not to excuse these offences – and just for the record, I think prostitution should be decriminalized – but they strike me as, mostly, crimes of poverty. That's another "strain" on women that leads to criminal charges. Girls simply have access to fewer financial resources.