According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2006), adolescent girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system in the United States, with California in the lead.
Evidence clearly shows that transition-age (12-17) young women tend to fare more poorly than their male counterparts, with more sexual assaults, single parenthood, homelessness, under-employment, unemployment, and suicide attempts (CIMH, 2006). Girls and young women between the ages of 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence (DOJ, 2006) and an average of 80% of female delinquents have reported a history of sexual abuse (Center for Gender and Justice). Additionally, girls that are exposed to violence are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, run away from home, engage in teenage prostitution, and commit sexual assault crimes.
Research has found that girls who are victims of extreme abuse often act out in ways that cause them to be arrested, and subsequently they are routinely criminalized by the juvenile system. Many of the youth in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to myriad traumatic events, either as victims or as witnesses. Consequently, many of these youths develop PTSD and other mental and emotional disorders, which then impact their ability to achieve normal developmental milestones in a timely manner.
These same youth are especially vulnerable to homelessness – more than 25% of former foster children become homeless within four years of leaving the system and 50% of adolescents aging out of foster care and juvenile justice system will be homeless within six months (Covenant House Institute). In addition, these young girls are among the highest at-risk for substance abuse, mental illnesses, and incarceration, to name a few of the burdens that will ultimately land on the public health system (NSDUH 2003-2006). For many adolescent females there appears to be a link between the experience of abuse and neglect, the lack of appropriate treatment, and the behaviors that led to arrest.
Untreated trauma commonly leads to: Substance Abuse, Incarceration, Eating Disorders, Suicide and Depression. The girls in the local juvenile detention centers are there as a result of circumstances stemming from hideous upbringings -abuse that leads to life of the streets, prostitution for survival, and deadly gang affiliations. As their inner worlds continue to crumble, they build walls around themselves to survive, retaining only the skills needed to survive in a world filled with crime and violence.
Our gender specific program helps girls develop trust and a sense of safety among healthy women mentors and intimate circle of peers. Through the healing practice of yoga and meditation, these young women become stronger, more confident, more aware and in control of their emotions and actions. The creative process of making art and journaling thoughts and ideas, allows the young women to process traumatic events, heal and develop a safe outlet for emotions and feelings. Lotus Light Arts gives girls tools to build healthy life skills that not only help them better themselves, but also better their community and their place in it. We teach girls yoga’s eight-fold path and help them recognize the power of art and mindful movement, hoping to negate the habits of excess drugs and alcohol use, unhealthy dieting, self-mutilation, depression and anxiety.