A new report released Wednesday uncovers staggering statistics for rates of violence and victimization among Florida girls, particularly for girls of color and those identifying as LGBTQ.
The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center unveiled its "Status of Florida Girls" research report, shining a light on the experiences of girls in their home lives, neighborhoods and schools. And the picture is far from pretty, particularly for Duval County.
"It's an unchecked crisis because although Florida leaders have access to a multitude of child well-being data, it is often siloed," said Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, president and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center. "This leads to a disconnect between children's needs and programming and policies that are best aligned to meet those needs."
According to the report, 44% of girls in Duval County said they do not feel safe at school, 22% of third grade girls are reading below third grade level and 30% said they do not have access to speak with a teacher one-on-one.
In 2018, there were 169 live births to girls under the age of 18 in Duval County. The next closest Northeast Florida county was Clay, with 19.
READ: Status of Florida Girls research report (PDF)
Overall in Florida, one in 10 girls report having been raped, one in three don't feel safe in school.
Ravoira said the Status of Florida Girls research reports are the first nationwide to identify Florida's most vulnerable girls by breaking apart the parts of the child well-being data.
According to the report, the data came from 27,000 girls in middle school and high school across the state and was collected by the Florida Department of Health.
The study also found:
- 13% of girls do not feel safe in their neighborhood
- One in five girls has contemplated suicide
- More than one in three girls express feeling hopeless
Ravoira said traumas increase the likelihood a girl will engage in self-harm, substance abuse or suicide.
"Every day we see girls with serious unaddressed mental health issues related to violence and victimization who end up locked away in detention centers where their needs are being exacerbated," said Vanessa Patino Lydia, vice president of research and planning for the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.
According to the Policy Center, Duval County ranks as the third-highest county in calls to the human trafficking hotline, and Florida ranks third in the country with calls to the hotline.
One young mom, who is also a teacher in Duval County, said she sees the violence and bullying firsthand.
"My husband and I have talked about it and education is near and dear to my heart," said Alexandra Sanderhoff. "I'm a teacher and I taught middle school for a long time, so I've had training and spent a long time and a lot of time thinking about what it means to be an adolescent in this area and what it means to be a young lady growing up here."
Ravoira said the policy center's research will help create a blueprint for action and policy changes. She also said it's a resounding call to action to have services and programs in communities throughout the state to protect girls and help them heal.
The See the Girl Summit scheduled for Oct. 24-25 at the Jessie Ball duPont Center will include a session that focuses on the research.
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