End the Criminalization of Trauma

Girls are affected by sexual violence at an alarmingly high rate in the United States: one in four girls will experience sexual assault before the age of 18. In middle and high schools, many girls who are survivors of sexual assault are being routinely denied an equal education opportunity–penalized for their trauma-induced behavior–instead of receiving wraparound trauma-informed services. Schools must be required to work with their Title IX Coordinators to rectify this injustice and ensure that vulnerable girls are able to fully pursue their education.

NOW’s Action Agenda:

  • Lobby school districts to instill a properly trained Title IX Coordinator, who can not only handle cases of sexual abuse but also be trained to identify it.
  • Provide trainings for faculty and staff so that they too can recognize signs of trauma that may be an underlying cause for “defiant” behavior in certain students, and learn how to address that trauma without further victimizing the student or depriving them of their education.
  • Develop protocols and provide/make referrals to services for sexually traumatized students with a view to ensuring an equal education opportunity for survivors, allowing them to stay in school, and recover from trauma.
  • Replace law enforcement in schools, often in the form of Student Resource Officers or SROs–who have been known to increase youth involvement in the juvenile justice system–with guidance and mental health counselors.

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