Sisterhood Agenda

Criminalization of Women’s Trauma

Angela D. Coleman
Latest posts by Angela D. Coleman (see all)

The criminalization of women’s trauma is something that we should all be aware of.  Women and girls’ trauma, substance abuse, and prison often intersect with race and gender at our schools and prisons.

Violence against women and girls is all too common; some estimate that 90% of girls experience at least one major trauma before the age of 18. Instead of providing much-needed assistance during a critical time of need when they are violated, sometimes violently, many women and girls are instead treated like criminals, penalized with expulsion and imprisonment.

The result:  girls who are abused are punished again after the abusive act has ended by a system that does not know how to treat them.

Thus the criminalization of women’s trauma begins.

Similar rates for people with histories of substance abuse, foster care, homelessness, receiving public assistance, and incarceration. For incarcerated women, the rate is near 100%


The criminalization process does not always happen immediately, although there are cases when it does, for example, girls who report sexual abuse and are punished for related or unrelated activities. Overall, this treatment is unfair and unjust.

The traumatic experience itself, plus the social response to it further compromises women’s and girls’ health, emotional well-being, and right to be uniquely free.

Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline

A report by Rights4Girls provides important documentation regarding the sexual abuse to prison pipeline, including underlying causes and reform recommendations.  Sex trafficking victimization, girls who run away from home or become truant, and those who migrate from the child welfare system into the juvenile justice system are all key points in the pipeline.

The Suffering of Black Girls

Girls of color, particularly Black girls, tend to be stereotyped as troublemakers and face much harsher school discipline than their White peers, advancing their transition from the school-to-prison pipeline.



Black Girls Matter:  Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected.
End the Sex Abuse to Prison Pipeline campaign
Teen Dating Violence and Sexual Assault in Schools: Resources and a Call to Action
Dear Colleague Letter:  Harassment and Bullying
Supporting a High School Student Survivor
Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence

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