Media coverage of violent street incidents often veils the violence that pervades many girls’ private lives. Although girls in Girls’ LEAP programs typically express fear of attack by a stranger, this is rarely the case. Girls face a wide range of different forms of violence in their schools, at home, and in their communities.
Victimization of Girls
- In Boston, girls ages 10-14 are at highest risk for sexual assault
- In Massachusetts, dating violence affects 1 in 5 girls
- 83% of middle and high school girls have been sexually harassed in school
Girls’ LEAP helps girls understand the difference between “flirting” and harassment, and to acknowledge when certain behaviors make them uncomfortable and should be addressed, rather than ignored and normalized. The skills taught at Girls’ LEAP help participants become advocates for their own safety and for the safety of others as well. Girls’ LEAP emphasizes behaviors that are positive and helps girls recognize situations that are disempowering for themselves or others. Girls’ LEAP also helps girls learn to identify adult advocates that can support and protect them in a variety of circumstances.
Agression Among Girls
Girls’ involvement in almost every category of violent crime has increased in the past decade while rates for boys have remained steady or declined. Additionally, when girls are violent, other girls usually are the victims.
- 45% of girls in our Self-Defense Programs report that girls in their schools get into physical fights “a lot” – only slightly lower than they report for boys.
- A 2007 study found that, 1 in 4 girls had been in a physical fight in the past year.
A growing part of our work is to help girls distinguish between real threats to their safety and conflicts that they can resolve.
Fear of Violence
Girls’ LEAP creates a safe and experiential learning environment that engages girls’ physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development. Many of the skills learned in Girls’ LEAP – communication, confidence, conflict resolution and self-advocacy – are underpinnings of success in academic and professional pursuits. At the same time, Girls’ LEAP addresses the needs of an overlooked constituency who are routinely witnesses to or victims of violent or inappropriate behavior.
- 51% of girls have had a family member or close friend murdered
- 67% reported that gunshots/shootings were a problem in their neighborhoods
- 14% reported being punched, kicked or choked in a dating relationship in the past month
- 18% reported being in a physical fight in the past month
When asked what programs or activities they would most like to participate in (out of a wide ranging list of over 64 activities) 190 girls (a majority) responded “Martial Arts/Self Defense.”
By offering girls a safe forum to probe the issue of violence and many opportunities to practice a range of constructive responses that strengthen internal protective factors, Girls’ LEAP helps girls become agents in their own safety.
“I am worth defending because I have hopes and dreams and someday I want to be someone who changes people’s lives.” -Girl, age 16