It could be anyone of us

Did you know that girls are the quickest rising population in the juvenile justice system? Not to mention, most of these girls and youth have way too many experiences of trauma[1]. But,I feel grateful, that events such as this symposium and policies such as the Trauma-informed Children and Family Act of 2017 and  Women's Correctional Act for Trauma-informed Care exist.

Thankfully childhood trauma is being addressed.

In December of last year, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel at the Gender & Justice Symposium: The Criminalization of Youth in Cook County. At this event, there were people from all walks of life, races, socioeconomic status, and positions. Including the State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx.

More importantly, sitting on the panels, were everyday people. People impacted by the trauma and inequities of the justice system. We discussed “gender-responsive” programming and its intent to address the inequalities faced by women and girls involved in the justice system. There are five cores principles of gender-responsiveness: (1) Relational; (2) Strength-based; (3) Trauma-informed; (4) Culturally responsive;and (5) Holistic.

We also heard powerful stories confirming the data presented and illustrating the need for training and professional support in trauma-informed implementation of policies. Among many stories in the room, some told and others untold, one of the young ladies shared her experience of incarceration and experiences of LGBTQ/GNC peers being mistreated and isolated. As the symposium wrapped up, after sharing her challenges of re-entry, another young lady sitting on the second panel was linked with services she had been praying for.

I was overwhelmed with joy and inspiration. I was so proud of my friend and colleague, Liz Alexander, Founder of She Dreams of freedom and Lead Organizer of the symposium. She and her colleagues did an excellent job modeling how to make room for voices of people, not just decision makers.

I hope participants walked away understanding the alarming rate of trauma experienced by women and girls involved with the justice system. We could have been one of these girls or women  caught in the cycle. It could be someone you love and care for.

If we know nothing else, it is that trauma is a human experience that has an impact on our communities, our children, our families, and our culture. We each have a responsibility in the healing and peace for humans of all complexion, gender, religion, and socio-economic status. It begins with our children.



[1] Abram, K., Teplin, L., King, D., Longworth, S., Emanuel, K., Romero, E., McClelland, G., Dulcan, M., Washburn, J., Welty, L., & Olson, N. (2013). PTSD, trauma, and comorbid psychiatric