Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

 

Hanging out with a regular group of friends can be a lot of fun, provide a sense of belonging, and boost your self-esteem. You might run with a crowd that you know through school, your neighborhood, or through mutual friends. Your group might go by a specific name, meet up regularly at a favorite hangout, and even use hand signs, symbols, or dress a certain way to show that you are loyal to each other.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

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So what makes your group of friends different from a gang? Getting involved with criminal activity is the important difference between gangs and teen clubs, cliques, and other social groups.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Gangs are a concern because they are responsible for much of the serious violence in the United States. If gangs are active where you live, you know how they create a climate of fear and stir up trouble in your community.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Still, the number of teens joining gangs is on the rise, and gangs are beginning to pop up in smaller towns and communities outside the inner city. Gangs used to be a concern of boys only. But nowadays, many girls are joining gangs or hanging out with boy gang members. Knowing the truth about gangs and gang life will help you to stay safe and make smart choices about the friendships you make and the people you date as you get older.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

What is gang life really like? arrow top
You probably see and hear about gang life on TV, in the movies, or in the music you listen to. Sometimes the media and entertainment industry make gang life out to be thrilling, exciting, and even glamorous. Actually, teen gang members spend most of their time doing what other kids their age do — going to school, watching TV, hanging out, eating, and sleeping. Not so exciting, is it?

But gang life is more than just hanging out with friends. Gang life is dangerous. Gang life can also get you arrested, or worse.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Gang members are 60 times more likely to be killed than others. Sixty times!
Gang members — and girls who hang out with gang members — are more likely to be exposed to crime, sexual abuse, drug use, conflict, fights, guns, and other weapons, putting themselves at greater risk for injury and even death.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Girl gang members are more likely to commit crimes than teens who are not involved with gangs. U.S. prisons are filled with women who got their start as teen gang members.
Most times, girls who want to join a gang must “prove” themselves through an initiation ritual that can involve getting beaten up or having sexual encounters with gang members.
Why do girls join gangs? arrow top
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Below are different ways real teen girls got involved with gangs. See if you can think of a better way each girl could have dealt with her situation.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Girl with dark hair and bangs. To feel a sense of belonging
“I’ve always been called a ‘troublemaker.’ My parents even tell me I’m no good. When I first started hanging out with a gang, it was the first time I felt like I belonged, like I mattered.”
Face of a teenage Asian girl. To identify with people like them
“My family came to the United States when I was 10. My parents came here so I could have a better life. But, they can’t relate to what it’s like to be an American teen. It was hard for me to fit in at school. So I started hanging out with this crew who are like me — they understand where I’m coming from.”
A surly looking girl with auburn hair. To feel powerful
“I’ve always been the kid that’s picked on and made fun of. I started hanging out with this really tough group of girls. They’re mean, and now people are afraid of me. They don’t pick on me anymore.”
Face of an African American girl. For excitement
“I was bored after school. I was looking for something to do — a thrill. Funny thing is, most of the time, hanging out with my homegirls is boring, too.”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Girl with very curly hair. To feel safe
“Where I live there’s a lot of hate between different racial groups. I don’t know why — there just is. There’s a lot of violence — you have to find a way to look out for yourself. I hang out with people like me to feel safe.”
Blonde teenage girl. To get money; to get basic needs
“My mom works two jobs to make ends meet. She makes sure me and my brother and sister get what we need — but there’s not much left over for things like nice clothes, music and stuff. One day, this girl in my school had this necklace — it was real gold. She always had nice things, and I wanted nice things too. So I started hanging out with her, even though I knew she hung out with gang members.”
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How to stay out of gangs arrow top
Get involved in a organization, like Boys & Girls Clubs of America External link, 4-H club External link, YMCA External link or a group organized through your community or a local church. People who care about you and want to see you succeed in life run these types of agencies. Some offer a safe place to hang out and have fun with other teens. Some can link you to activities or programs that you might be interested in. Some will help you to develop your talents and skills. Most can help you when you have a problem or if you are in trouble.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Get involved in school. Sports, drama, music, student government, clubs, volunteer opportunities — after-school programs offer a lot. If you aren’t sure where to go, talk with a trusted teacher or counselor, who can direct you to an after-school activity that’s right for you.
Don’t hang out with people in gangs. You might know of some teens who are in gangs or who hang out with gang members and think, “They are a lot like me.” But, there are other ways to meet people you can identify with. If you hang out with people in or associated with gangs, there’s a good chance you will join a gang.
Don’t look like a gang member. Be aware of the colors and specific clothing styles, such as wearing bandanas or hats, that gangs in your area use as symbols of their loyalty. If you look like a gang member, someone might think you’re a real gang member, and you could be an innocent target of gang violence.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Check out these ideas for boosting your self-esteem.
Learn more about dealing with conflict.
Think highly about yourself and the things you can do. Don’t put yourself down by thinking, “I’m a troublemaker” or “I can’t get along with anybody.”
Remember, you do have a choice. Most teens that live where gangs are active choose not to join gangs. If you are asked to join a gang but are afraid to say no, keep in mind that most teens are not forced into joining. Go to a trusted adult for help.
Don’t get physical when you disagree or have a problem with someone. Find peaceful solutions to working out conflicts.
What if you’re already in a gang — can you get out? arrow top
If you already made the choice to join a gang, you might wonder if it’s too late to get out. Actually, over half of gang members choose to leave within a year of joining. You can decide to leave too.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

As a gang member, you have had to deal with some pretty harsh and ugly realities. Violence might be a normal part of your life. But having these experiences shows that you are tough — tough enough to make different, better choices for yourself. If you are strong enough for gang life, you are strong enough to go to school, take responsibility for your actions, and do good things for your community.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

How do you leave a gang? arrow top
This really depends on your unique situation. It depends on how long you’ve been in the gang, what type of gang it is, and how close you live to where the gang hangs out. Walking away may be the best thing to do. It will be easier to do this if you haven’t been in the gang a long time. If you’ve been in the gang for years, it may be hard to avoid other gang members. You may even need to move to another city to leave the gang.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

You have the inner strength and courage you need to get out, but you also need support from others. Turn to a parent/guardian, teacher, counselor, or other trusted adult, who can help you safely get out of your gang. Doing so is an important first step.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

From 2012 to 2015, the National Council on
Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) conducted
research in California to examine the individual,
family, and community factors involved in girls’
experiences with and desistance from gangs and
gang-related crime. The goals of NCCD’s study
included identifying girls’ reasons for joining
gangs, their experiences and activities related
to gang involvement, and their motivations and
strategies for transitioning away from gangs.This
executive summary presents key findings from
NCCD’s interviews with 114 gang-involved girls. It
also provides recommendations for practitioners,
policymakers, and others who are interested in
improving outcomes for gang-involved girls.
Methods
This study had two phases of data collection:
(1) individual interviews with key stakeholders
(including former gang members, outreach
workers, and researchers), and (2) individual
interviews with gang-involved girls and young
women. A small advisory board composed of
individuals with expertise in gang ou
4
Findings
The findings reported here are based on interviews
with 114 gang-involved girls and young women;
the sample size (or n size) for individual items may
vary. As these findings describe the experience of a
specific group of interview participants and was not
designed to be a representative sample, these data
cannot necessarily be generalized to the larger
population of gang-involved girls.
Findings are presented in two main sections.
The first section presents highlights from the
quantitative data, including a profile of interview
participants and information about their
experiences while involved in gangs. The second
section focuses on qualitative data to contextualize
the quantitative findings and includes an
examination of why and how girls join or become
associated with gangs, their role(s) in gangs, and
why and how they leave gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Characteristics of Interview
Participants
Location: Participants were interviewed in eight
California cities: Hayward, Los Angeles, Oakland,
Richmond, Salinas, San Francisco, San Jose, and San
Leandro. The largest percentages of participants
were interviewed in Los Angeles (33%), San Jose
(25%), and San Francisco (18%). Participants
did not necessarily live in the city in which their
interviews took place. For confidentiality purposes,
interviewees were not asked in what city they lived
or were involved in gang activity.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Age: Participants ranged in age from 14 to 25
years. Participants’ median age was 18 years. About
half the participants (48%) were between the ages
of 17 and 19.
Race/Ethnicity: Participants identified themselves
as Hispanic or Latino (44%), Black/African American
(36%), Mixed Race (14%), Native American (3%),
Pacific Islander (2%), or White (1%).
Country of Origin: Most participants reported
being born in either the United States (88%) or
Mexico (11%). About two thirds (68%) had at least
one parent born in the United States, and more
than one third (36%) reported having at least one
parent born in Mexico.
Sexual Orientation: When asked about sexual
orientation, about 71% of participants identified
as straight and 29% as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or
questioning (LGBTQ).Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Romantic Relationships: Three quarters (75%)
of participants reported being in a romantic
relationship at the time of the interview. Most
(82%) participants reported dating a gang member
at the time of the interview or in the past.
Pregnancy and Parenting: About two fifths (39%)
of participants were pregnant and/or were parents
at the time of the interview. For those participants
with children, the majority (87%) reported that all
or some of their children live with them.
Participants were interviewed
in eight California cities.
The largest percentages of
participants were interviewed
in Los Angeles (33%), San
Jose (25%), and San Francisco
(18%).Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
5
Education and Employment: Nearly three
quarters (73%) of participants were in school, doing
job training, and/or working at the time of the
interview. More than half (54%) were attending
school, and more than one third (36%) were in jobtraining programs. While the majority (81%) said
they had worked at some point in time, less than
half (43%) were working when interviewed.
Justice Involvement: Participants demonstrated
significant involvement with the justice system.
At some point in their lives, nearly three quarters
(72%) had been arrested, half (50%) had been
on probation, and about half (52%) had been in
detention or placement.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Justice and Gang Involvement of Participants’
Families: Almost every participant reported that at
least one person in her family had previous justice
and/or gang involvement. Most (96%) participants
had at least one family member who had been
arrested, and 92% had at least one family member
who had been in jail or prison. Additionally, 87% of
participants had at least one gang-involved family
member.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
1
Gang Membership and Activity Level
Interview participants were asked about their gang
membership status and activity level. Regarding
membership status, each participant was asked
if she considered herself an associate of a gang,
a gang member, or neither. The study used the
following definitions for membership, developed
in consultation with stakeholder interviewees and
based on previous research (Carlie, 2002; Howell &
Griffiths, 2015).Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
• Associates: Refers to girls who do not
consider themselves to be official gang
members, but do participate in gang activities.
For some gangs, “associate” girls are rarely
considered official members. As a result, girls
may associate with and participate in the
activities of a gang, but they may not formally
be initiated and therefore do not identify as
gang involved. Associates may be friends of
or romantically involved with gang members.
Associates, in general, are able to fade into
and out of gang activities and to decide how
deeply they want to be involved.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
2
• Gang members: Refers to girls who consider
themselves to be officially part of a gang.
Some of these girls are legacies, meaning they
have family members who were part of the
same gang. This category also includes girls
who are formally initiated into a gang.
About two thirds (67%) of participants identified
as an “associate,” and about one quarter (28%) as
a “gang member.” A small percentage (5%) did
not identify as a gang member or an associate;
however, they were involved with gang activity
or knew gang members in their neighborhood
and were thus considered “at risk” for gang
involvement.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
1
The terms “family” and “family member” can include biological family, legal family, extended family, and close friends.
2
Although NCCD’s interview instrument used the term “associate,” NCCD researchers learned during the interview process that girls who
consider themselves an associate may choose to refer to themselves as an “affiliate” instead.
6
Interview participants also were asked if they
considered themselves active or inactive in their
gang at the time of the interview. This approach,
recommended by the advisory board, was used
instead of specifically asking participants if they
had left their gang. According to the advisory
board, some girls may never fully be able to leave
the gang but can stop being active in it. “Active”
or “inactive” were defined not necessarily in the
sense of having left a gang, but by considering
such factors as time (amount of time spent with
gang-involved peers), location (whether the
participant’s primary focus is on activities at home
or in the streets), and degree of interaction (level
of engagement with gang-involved peers), an
approach consistent with similar research (Fleisher
& Krienert, 2004).Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
The study’s definitions for gang activity level are
summarized below.
• Active: Refers to girls who were not
attempting to leave the gang. These girls
were continuing to spend time with the
gang and “putting in work” (e.g., engaging in
activities that a gang might ask an individual
to do, such as fighting rival gang members
or participating in criminal activity with or on
behalf of the gang).
• Inactive: Refers to girls who were staying
away from gang activity. This includes
those who were slowly attempting to leave
their gang and those who had completely
disengaged with gang members and gang
activity.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Most interview participants (85%) stated that they
were inactive at the time of the interview, while
15% reported being actively involved in a gang.
As many participants were interviewed through
intervention and street outreach programs, this
may be a contributing factor to why a large
proportion of the study sample considered
themselves inactive.
Augmenting these statistics, the qualitative data
indicate that participants’ gang membership status
and activity level tended to be fluid and nuanced.
For example, in some cases a participant who
identified as an associate could demonstrate similar
behaviors as those who considered themselves
members.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Crime/Delinquency, Aggression, and
Substance Use
The study used several measures to examine
interview participants’ self-reported levels of risk
behavior, including criminal behavior, gang-related
activities, aggression, and substance use. Analysis
of these data included examining differences by
participants’ self-identified gang membership
status and activity level; when statistically
significant, these differences are reported here.
Delinquency, Crime, and Gang-Related
Activities
Interview participants’ delinquency during two
time periods (in the past year, in their lifetime) was
assessed with a self-reported delinquency scale
adapted from the National Youth Survey (Elliott &
Ageton, 1980; Elliott, Ageton, & Huizinga, 1985).
Table 1 displays the items with the highest means
for all respondents.
According to the study’s
advisory board, some girls
may never fully be able to
leave the gang but can stop
being active in it.
7
3
Person offenses include simple assault and aggravated assault. Examples of public order offenses include public drunkenness and
disorderly conduct. Conducting illegal sales or services, such as selling drugs, are examples of service offenses.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
4
Self-identified gang members reported committing person offenses more often during their lifetime (M = 2.3) than those who identified
as associates or at risk (M = 1.8), t(99) = -3.37, p < .05. Members (M = 2.4) also reported lifetime higher levels of public order offenses than
associate/at-risk participants (M = 1.9), t(99) = -3.18, p < .05.
5
χ2(1, N = 102) = 7.02, p = .01
6 t(99) = -2.02, p = .05 for both.
NCCD’s analysis included classifying lifetime
responses into one of five offense-type subscales—
person, property, public order, service,3
and status
offenses—and examining the relationship between
delinquency and gang involvement. Public order
and person offenses were statistically significant
related to gang membership; participants who selfidentified as gang members reported committing
these types of offenses more often than those who
identified as associates/at risk.4
Participants were asked if they engaged in various
8
Victimization and Trauma
The study used several measures to examine
self-reported levels of victimization and trauma,
including violence and victimization, sexual
exploitation, and loss of significant relationships.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
See Table 3.
Violence and Victimization
The study examined types of violence that
interview participants experienced through gang
involvement. Overall, 86% of participants witnessed
violence and nearly half (49%) had a violent act
committed against them as part of a gang, both of
which were statistically significant related to gang
membership. A higher percentage of participants
who identified as gang members witnessed
violence (100%) and were victims of violence (72%)
compared with associate/at risk participants (81%
and 40%, respectively).7
Sexual Exploitation
The study explored whether participants were
victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in their
gang. A small percentage (2%) reported being
sexed into their gang. A larger percentage (14%)
reported being asked or forced by their ganginvolved partner or gang to have sex with gang
members and/or non-gang affiliated individuals. Of
this group, about half had been asked to do so for
money.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Loss of Relationships
Participants were asked if they had lost any
important relationships (including partner/spouse,
family members, friends, etc.) during the past year
due to death, incarceration, breakup, moving,
or any other reason. In all, 84% said they had
experienced the loss of one or more relationships.
Of participants who reported lost relationships,
76% said at least one loss was due to death and
46% said at least one was due to incarceration;
many girls experienced losses for both reasons.
A higher percentage of inactive participants
reported losses due to death compared with active
participants; the difference was not significant,
however.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
7
Witnessed violence: χ2(1, N = 100) = 6.33, p < .01; victim of violence: χ2(1, N = 102) = 8.87, p < .01
Table 2: Self-Reported Substance Use
Item
Lifetime
(Used one or
more times)
Previous
Month
(Used one or
more times)
%
“Yes” N %
“Yes” N
Marijuana 96% 110 67% 105
Alcohol (wine,
hard liquor) 85% 110 61% 93
Beer 58% 108 61% 64
Hallucinogens 32% 108 8% 36
Cocaine 29% 109 22% 32
Table 3: Self-Reported Experiences of
Victimization and Trauma
Experience %
“Yes” N
Witnessed violence as part of gang 86% 112
Lost important relationship(s) due
to death, incarceration, breakup,
moving, etc. (past year)
84% 103
Had violent act committed against
them as part of gang 49% 114
Asked or forced by gang-involved
partner or gang to have sex with
gang members and/or non-gang
affiliated individuals
14% 112
Sexed into gang 2% 114
9
members, and how participants interpreted the
concept of joining. For some, “joining a gang”
implied participating in a formal initiation activity,
which most said they had not done.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
In contrast to participating in formal initiation
activities, some participants said that because
they had been around gang members since they
were born, they did not necessarily “join” the
gang. One said that because her family was gang
involved, she was automatically part of the gang
and did not have to participate in an initiation
activity. However, the majority of participants could
provide reasons that led to their joining and/or
participating in gangs. In many cases, joining was
not a one-time decision or incident, but rather
consisted of gradual steps and was due to a variety
of factors.
Why Do Girls Join Gangs?
Family Members’ Gang Involvement
Family history and family influences emerged
as critical factors in shaping participants’ gang
involvement. As noted earlier, 87% of participants
reported having at least one gang-involved family
Social Supports
Participants’ types of social support were
assessed using several measures. This included a
modified version of the Norbeck Social Support
Questionnaire (Norbeck, Lindsey, & Carrieri, 1981)
for participants to describe significant people in
their life. Participants who self-identified as inactive
had more social supports (M = 5.7) than those
who were active (M = 4.3), a statistically significant
difference.8
Overall, about two thirds of participants reported
having a best friend (68%) and having a mentor
either inside or outside of their family (66%).
Nearly three quarters (73%) of inactive participants
reported having a best friend compared to 25%
of active participants, a statistically significant
difference.9
In addition, a higher percentage of
inactive participants said they had a mentor (46%
outside of the family and 55% within the family)
compared with active participants (25% and 36%,
respectively); however, these differences were not
significant.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Joining Gangs
Analysis of the study’s qualitative data showed
that interview participants’ situations in various life
domains, including those of family, neighborhood,
and peers, had an impact on their involvement
in gang activities. Additionally, participants’
motivations for joining or being involved with a
gang are often a result of multiple factors and
may not reflect an active choice to pursue gang
involvement.
How Do Girls Join Gangs?
The question of joining a gang was not applicable
to all participants and was dependent on such
factors as the type of gang that participants were
part of, participants’ relationships with gang
8 t(95) = 2.09, p = .04
9
Chi-square significant at the < .05 level
10
the same situation I was in. They don’t judge. We
all come from nothing,” one said.
Gang-Involved Peers and Romantic Partners
Peers influenced participants’ gang involvement.
Some joined because their friends or romantic
partners were in a gang. As noted earlier, most
participants (82%) had dated a gang member,
either prior to or while participating in a gang.
Some said that in order to keep their partners,
they decided to participate in or were forced to
join the gang. Others said that as they began to
date a gang member, they became friends with
and began to associate with other members of the
gang.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Girls’ Roles in Gangs
The qualitative data provide insight about interview
participants’ roles in their gang. When asked to
describe their role in their gang, participants’ most
frequent initial response was that they did not
have a specified role. However, many subsequently
provided information about tasks they performed
and activities they conducted either in or for their
gang, while a small group reiterated that they did
not have a role.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
member. Some participants with gang-involved
families felt they did not have a choice in whether
to be part of a gang or labeled as a gang member.
One participant said, “It was my family, I wouldn’t
have said no.”
Neighborhood/Environment
Family influences appeared to operate in tandem
with participants’ geographic proximity to gangs.
Some participants said they became associated
with a gang due to where they lived. This included
geographic locations such as neighborhoods and
physical spaces like apartment buildings. One
participant described the experience she had living
in her apartment complex. “We all grew up in the
same apartments,” she said. “It would always just
be, like, the little kids gathering up, which later
grew up to become an actual gang or clique or
something.”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Belonging and Acceptance
The data indicate a relationship between
participants’ desire for belonging and attachment
and their involvement in a gang. Participants often
described their gang as providing a sense of family
and a place where they felt accepted. “Things were
just bad at home and I was trying to find people in
Some participants with
gang-involved families felt
they did not have a choice in
whether to be part of a gang
or labeled as a gang member.
One participant said, “It was
my family, I wouldn’t have
said no.”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Participants often described
their gang as providing a
sense of family and a place
where they felt accepted.
“Things were just bad at home
and I was trying to find people
in the same situation I was in.
They don’t judge. We all come
from nothing,” one said.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
11
are interconnected and not mutually exclusive.
Pregnancy/Parenting
The most common motive that prompted
participants’ gang inactivity was a major life
transition, such as becoming pregnant or
articulating the desire to parent their children
differently. One participant noted, “When I found
out I was pregnant, I had no other choice. It was
either being in a gang and not taking care of my
kid, or taking care of my kid and just live life a
different way. Go to school, actually do something
with my life.”
Maturing Out/Desire for a Better Lifestyle
Another common reason for becoming inactive was
because gang involvement was no longer a lifestyle
that participants desired, often due to maturing out
of it. The notion of maturing out of gang activity
took different forms. Some participants noted that
as they progressed into adulthood, the motivation
to be an active gang member began to dissipate.
“There’s no glory in it once you get older,” one
said.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Others reported growing weary of what gang
activity entailed, such as being vigilant about
personal safety, losing too many family members
to gang violence, and wanting to be a role model
for younger siblings. Some stated that as they
Auxiliary Role
Of the participants who said they had a specific
role in their gang, some expressed having
an auxiliary role such as being the “lookout,“
“run[ning] minor things,” or being a “helper.” A
number of participants stated that their role was to
do “what needs to be done,” which included such
activities as breaking into cars; petty theft; holding
weapons, money, or drugs; or selling marijuana.
Fighter Role
Another common role was “fighter.” According to
participants, the role of a fighter had two purposes.
One was to fight rival female gang members, or
“have the homies’ back.” Another was to assist the
gang leaders in disciplining fellow “little sisters” of
their gang. As one participant noted, “I made sure
the little sisters stay loyal.”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Leadership Role
A small group stated that their role was to be a
leader, which was described as being a “female
general,” “in charge of the other girls,” or “getting
other girls to do things.” Serving as a female leader
included communicating directives with other
women in the gang and recruiting potential new
little sisters who would be committed to the gang.
Exiting the Gang
Why and How Do Girls Leave Gangs?
The study asked interview participants who
identified as inactive in a gang about why and
how they became inactive. The qualitative data
indicate that being inactive looks different for
each individual and encompasses a wide range of
experiences. Some participants described being
“jumped out” or “put off” the gang in order to
leave; however, the majority did not report needing
to take any formal or exceptional steps to exit their
gang. Instead, inactivity was typically a gradual
process of continuously rejecting gang activity.
As with much of the study data, the reasons
participants gave for desistance from gang activity
One participant noted, “When
I found out I was pregnant,
I had no other choice. It was
either being in a gang and
not taking care of my kid, or
taking care of my kid and just
live life a different way.”
12
some noted they were asked to do numerous
activities as part of leaving the gang. “It was never
enough. We were like their puppets—do their dirty
work, but they were never going to let you go,” a
participant said.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Participants’ Strengths
The interview participants were individuals with a
multitude of skills, passions, and assets. The study
also specifically asked participants to identify some
of their strengths.
The most commonly named asset was being
strong and resilient. One participant said that her
strength was an ability to rebound from problems
or setbacks. “I can get up after mistakes,” she said.
“I wouldn’t let another person go through this. It
takes a strong person to go through [it]. When
I learned how to do better, I did.” The second
most frequent response was having interpersonal
skills, which included being “communicative” and
“outgoing.”
Intelligence was another frequent response, with
girls describing themselves as “quick and smart”
and “brilliant.” Finally, another common strength
voiced by participants was independence. One said,
“I don’t ask for help; I do things myself.”
matured they wanted to pursue different options,
such as finishing high school, going to college,
finding legitimate employment, and living a drugfree life.
Fear of Incarceration and Re-Traumatization
For participants who have been justice involved,
another reason some stated for inactivity was
a fear of incarceration, which could lead to retraumatization.
10 Additionally, the prospect of
having another blemish on their criminal justice
record or, if incarcerated, having limited or no
opportunities to see their families served for some
participants as a deterrent to remaining active.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Strategies Used to Leave Gangs
For many interview participants, a primary
desistance strategy was to avoid direct
engagement with their gang-involved peers. This
could involve changing the course of conversations
and altering social interactions in an effort to
decrease their level of gang activity. “I just stopped
hanging out. They hit me up. I don’t hit them back
up,” one explained.
For participants with gang-involved family
members, the ability to leave the gang appeared
to be especially challenging. However, those in
this situation described using similar strategies as
other participants to avoid engagement. One said,
“They’re always going to be there. It’s just how
you act—that’s how I consider it. Like, me, I don’t
throw gang signs. I don’t shout out at people. Of
course it’s still in me—you know where you came
from. You’re never going to forget where you came
from.”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
A small number of participants reported having
to perform a specific exit requirement in order to
become inactive, including having to be “jumped
out,” “snoop around on rival gang members,”
or be involved in “some serious stuff.” An exit
requirement is not always a one-time activity—
10 For example, while incarcerated, girls may be subject to the use of restraints or isolation or other practices that can re-traumatize girls
who are already vulnerable (Hennessey, Ford, Mahoney, Ko, & Siegfried, 2004).
“I can get up after mistakes,”
a participant said. “I wouldn’t
let another person go through
this. It takes a strong person
to go through [it]. When I
learned how to do better, I did.”
13
lines for gang inclusion and activity are frequently
inexact, especially for those who consider
themselves associates or affiliates (Bolden, 2012).
Many girls who may not identify as gang members
are in fact gang involved and need services.
Interview participants were more open to the terms
“affiliate” and “associate” than “gang member.”
Factors to consider for outreach and programming
include using flexible and respectful terminology,
understanding the wide range of girls’ experiences
with gangs, and involving individuals who have
had personal experience with gangs and are well
positioned to understand girls’ situations.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Placing Intersectionality at the
Forefront
Girls in gangs have experienced many types of
marginalization, and these experiences should be
taken into consideration when developing and
providing services for them. Most participants in
this study were young women of color, and some
also identified as LGBTQ. Effective and tailored
services should consider the intersectional linkages
among participants’ race/ethnicity, gender,
class, citizenship status, gender identity, sexual
orientation, and other factors. This can include
understanding and acknowledging how these
defining characteristics influence the choices,
viewpoints, and experiences of young women
involved in gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Understanding Girls’ Entrenched
Lives
The study found that many interview participants
were entrenched in a lifestyle where gang
involvement was prevalent. Participants tended
to join or come in contact with a gang due to
family and peer influences, which is consistent
Recommendations
Many interview participants have connected with
service providers, mentors, and other programs
and individuals who are committed to helping
gang-involved girls. In order to translate the study
findings into practice, the study team developed
several recommendations designed to further
support organizations and individuals who work
with gang-involved girls.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Using Intentional Language
When developing and providing services, it is
important to consider how girls self-identify in
terms of gang involvement. Unless used by young
people themselves, terms such as “gang” and
“gang member” should be avoided. These may
not be terms that girls would choose to describe
themselves or their behavior, even though they
are often imposed on them by law enforcement,
researchers, or community members. Furthermore,
as this study and previous research has found, the
Girls in gangs have
experienced many types
of marginalization, and
these experiences should
be taken into consideration
when developing and
providing services for them.
Services should consider the
intersectional linkages among
participants’ race/ethnicity,
gender identity, sexual
orientation, and other factors.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
14
Providing Tailored Services for Girls
The majority of inactive participants decided to
exit their gang because they were pregnant or
parenting, consistent with other research that
suggests that young women primarily choose gang
desistance due to having a child or “settling down”
(Fleisher & Krienert, 2004; O’Neal et al., 2014),
although this finding varies across the literature
(Varriale, 2008). The information from NCCD’s study
indicates the need for specific services, such as
ones that support young women to be the parents
they strive to be, and includes resources and
programming related to education, employment,
and housing. Pre- and postnatal care, daycare
assistance, and parenting classes and support are
also critical services. Additionally, as girls transition
from gangs, they continue to experience high levels
of trauma and may struggle with addiction issues,
further demonstrating the need to offer a range
of tailored services and supports to young women
exiting gangs. Moreover, these resources should
continue to be provided while young women keep
moving into adulthood.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Building on Girls’ Strengths
Interview participants reported having a range
of strengths, including resiliency, interpersonal
skills, intelligence, and independence. These selfreported traits were borne out in the stakeholder
interviews and the researchers’ interactions
with the participants. They are impressive and
important skills and traits for anyone to possess,
all the more so given these girls’ circumstances
and environments. Service providers and
others interested in helping girls can use assetbased frameworks, such as positive youth
development (Clonan-Roy, Jacobs, & Nakkula,
2016; Development Services Group, 2014), to
recognize and build on girls’ strengths and skills
when developing and implementing programs or
services.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

In the face of the overwhelming violence both perpetuated by and affecting the young men trapped in the world of gang conflict, it is all too easy to overlook the young women who are also stranded in this unsafe, unstable environment. These women, although they make up less than 10 percent of gang members, face the highest rates of victim-offender overlap and often endure cruel, dehumanizing treatment at the hands of the gang members whom they are attempting to appease.1

Motivation for Joining Gangs
In order to properly address and provide solutions to the issue of female gang membership, it is essential to understand why girls and young women join gangs to begin with. Research shows that, perhaps intuitively, they join gangs for many of the same reasons that young men do. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. These motivating factors include protection from other gangs or neighborhood violence, a source of income, preexisting social or familial connections to the gang, and a path to earning respect.2 The latter, a desire for respect, is particularly important with the females who enter gangs. Girls who grow up in an environment—where they feel undervalued and powerless—whether that environment is their home, school, or neighborhood—are likely to seek out ways to gain any semblance of authority and respect, which often leads them to gangs.3 In a cruel twist of irony, though, once they are affiliated with a gang, women tend to lose virtually all power.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Once affiliated with a gang, women are often victimized and used to assist other crimes.

There are several additional motivating factors for female gang membership, all of which present valuable opportunities for addressing this issue. First, young women are more likely than young men to join a gang because they are seeking a surrogate familial structure.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. In fact, a lack of parental supervision and monitoring has been shown to be a notable risk factor for female gang membership.4 In a 2016 National Council on Crime & Delinquency (NCCD) study, researchers found that 96 percent of female gang members surveyed had a family member who had been arrested, and 92 percent had a family member in jail or prison.5 In addition, female gang membership has been shown to be correlated with neighborhood disorganization and low school attachment.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. That is, young women who are joining gangs tend to be coming from communities that lack stability, safety, and commitment, and their education is often marred by these same challenges. In addition, female gang members are likely to have endured childhood physical or sexual abuse.6 And, unfortunately, once they are involved with a gang, these women continue to suffer this type of trauma, making it nearly impossible for them to envision any escape from this vicious cycle.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Women’s Roles in Gangs
It is very difficult to develop an accurate representation of the role that women play once they are actually part of a gang. Admittedly, females do make up a far smaller proportion of gang members, and it is challenging to collect data from a smaller sample size. Nonetheless, there is a striking lack of data collected and published on this specific population.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. In fact, when surveyed, over 25 percent of U.S. police departments had no data whatsoever on female gang membership.7 However, according to public information officer David Coulson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Chicago Field Division, female gang members often play an essential role in the criminal activities of the organization. For many years, ATF has identified the trend of straw purchasing of firearms by women on behalf of their male counterparts in gangs.8 In addition, a 2016 NCCD study found that, of the female gang members they interviewed, 72 percent had been asked, forced, or volunteered to commit a violent act; 66 percent to deal drugs; and 61 percent to hide a gun.9 In this way, female gang members and affiliates are entirely embedded in the gang’s activities, even as they are treated like second-class citizens within the gang and their communities.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Female gang members represent a population that is absolutely underserved and incredibly vulnerable, but also one for which there is great promise for successful interventions. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. Female gang members experience incredibly high rates of abuse, both at home and within their gangs.10 Psychologists have shown that, in general, females are more likely than males to internalize the stress resulting from trauma such as abuse, which can in many cases lead to self-harming behavior, as well as irreversible damage to self-perception and self-worth.11 Providing services and resources to at-risk females to prevent their initiation into or facilitate their exit from gangs would provide invaluable support for an entire generation of women who face this threat to their psychological and physical development.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

On a more optimistic note, female gang members tend to age out of gangs earlier than males. The most common reason for female gang members to abandon their affiliation is pregnancy or parenting. For the women who are involved with gangs, this maternal responsibility often occurs early in life. The NCCD found that, in their sample of female gang members (many whom were under the age of 21), nearly half were pregnant or already a parent.12 The motivation of parenthood means that female gang members are not only likely to leave the gangs earlier, but also more likely to stay uninvolved in the future. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. Another driving factor for female members leaving their gangs is incarceration. This is important because, overall, female prisoners have statistically lower recidivism rates than their male counterparts.13 This suggests that, once given the proper resources, women are more likely not only to escape gang life, but also to stay clear of it permanently.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Resources and Solutions for At-Risk Women
Unfortunately, there is a disgraceful lack of resources for young women who are at risk for gang involvement. In fact, of the $272 million of U.S. federal funds that are set aside for juvenile justice programs, only $2 million goes toward supporting women.14 There are many rising programs that address young men specifically, with the goal of minimizing the risk factors that contribute to both entry and commitment to gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. Parallel preventative programs for young women would do well to focus on the risk factors that have been shown to be particularly prevalent for female gang members. For example, since there is a high correlation between female gang membership and lack of parental supervision, programs that provide young women with consistent, reliable mentorship might be helpful in reducing the possibility of future gang membership.15 In addition, therapy and supportive services targeted toward healing survivors’ experiences of sexual, physical, and emotional trauma are sorely needed to serve the women who manage to escape gang life, many who have endured lifetimes of abuse.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

There are currently a couple of incredible organizations in Chicago, Illinois, that are focusing on this young female population. Working on Womanhood focuses on young people who face the most significant risk factors for gang affiliation or violence.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. These girls participate in more than 30 weeks of therapy-based small-group sections designed to address conflict resolution, family issues, addiction, and educational achievement.16 Another organization, Demoiselle 2 Femme, provides services, education, and prevention program to girls ages 13–19. Topics addressed by these programs include HIV/AIDS, obesity, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, violence, money management, and college access.17 Clearly, the capacity to provide for and support these young women does exist. The challenge is ensuring that effective, committed programs such as these become the rule and not the exception.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Conclusion
Female gang members face unimaginable trauma, danger, and hopelessness. And society, in failing to recognize and address these challenges, is abandoning an entire population of women who not only inherently deserve support, but who also have the potential to shape the lives of the men with whom they interact. There is no reason to further endanger and ignore these women—inaction is no longer an option.

Mentorship of young women and community outreach by police departments are vital initiatives in preventing and deterring female gang membership. Such proactive efforts build communities of trust and support for young women that will make a positive impact. What can you do? Get involved, visit schools, start a mentorship program, convene community events revolving around young women. Those efforts will make all the difference.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Introduction
T
2
Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Following this general approach, female gang members were accessed across Cape Town’s multiple gangs.
These contacts were initiated by an experienced researcher with excellent and neutral connections to the gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Nevertheless, there were numerous difficulties identifying and accessing female gang members, both to protect
the security of those being interviewed, but also that of the interviewers. Work continued over a two-month period
in March and April 2016. Individual women and wider sets of contacts in the gang world were used to identify
women who were prepared to talk to outside researchers.
The anonymity of the interview subjects was guaranteed and the vast majority of women declined to have the
interview recorded.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. The scope of the interviews was also limited by the ethical requirement not to directly discuss
crimes in which the subjects had been engaged, but not convicted for. Children below eighteen years of age were
not interviewed given statutory requirements in South Africa that parental consent is required in such cases. To fill
this gap, women that were interviewed were asked to report on their childhoods.
The research eventually drew on interviews with over 30 individual female gang members, with several individuals
being interviewed twice. The interviews were often difficult to organise – female gang members had to be separated
out from their male counterparts and a place with comparative privacy being found – but also because of the
difficulties of ensuring a frank discussion about their past and the nature of life within the gang. The interviews were
conducted as free flowing discussions guided by a set of common questions.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Given that there is no clear idea of how many female gang members are active in Cape Town, these interviews
do not necessarily constitute a representative sample. However, some effort was made to ensure that women
from multiple different gangs were interviewed. The results thus provide a unique qualitative insight into the
backgrounds, life stories, lifestyles and life chances of women in Cape Town’s gang milieu. An appendix to this
Policy Note provides sketches of ten of the interviews to provide some insight into the nature of the history and
background of individual women and girls.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
The purpose of the Policy Note is to stimulate more discussion around policy options targeted at female gang
members. That is not to deny that many of these may equally apply to male gangsters. Nevertheless, a study of
the life stories of female gang members suggests several focussed interventions that may have applicability to the
specific realities faced by women enmeshed in gangs and gang culture, and highlight a vulnerable group that has
largely been overlooked.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
3
Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Seven themes emerging from the interviews
While the interviews covered a wide array of topics, including some more general discussion as a way to build trust,
a number of themes emerged from all of the interviews. The most important of these are as follows:
1. Women and girls seek “belonging” within gangs
Interviews highlighted again and again that girls and young women enter the milieu of gangs because it
provides a place of “belonging” in otherwise fractured and violent communities. The gang in this sense, in
the words of several interviewees, “became family”, even if internal gang politics and actions were often
themselves violent and unpredictable.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
“Becoming family” in contexts where gangs are powerful forms of social and community organisation brings
two other benefits: resources and security. Impressionable young women who join gangs can access new
clothes, jewellery, the cars of their boyfriends and gang bosses, and much that they could not afford they
remained unconnected and at home. Critically too, in places where gangs hold so much sway and violent
power and capacity, not joining a gang “makes you far more vulnerable, than joining one”. Gangs provide
protection and. at least in the short-term, some have few options but to join.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
The critical point here is that female gang members are not coerced to join gangs. They do so, for the most part willingly,
in a similar fashion to their male counterparts. One big difference however is that the route to gang membership for
girls and young women is often the result of developing a romantic relationship with a gang member.
2. Sex is a common currency in gang interactions involving women
The common currency of the engagement between female gang members and other members of the
gang is “sexual”. While it could perhaps be too crude to argue that “sex is exchanged” for membership and
belonging, sex provides a direct utility for female gang members to offer – or to be forced to provide.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. Tales
of rape and sexual abuse within the gangs were depressingly common across all the interviews. This is not
to suggest that women and girls in gang environments are only victims – many concede that they joined
gangs for the benefits that could be obtained and also that they offered sexual favours in part to obtain
these – but that girls and young women were particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse in gang environments.
Relationships with mid-level and more senior gang members provide a point of access to the gang milieu.
Initial sexual encounters, many of which constitute forms of coerced sexual activity, are critical rights of
passage for many young women making their way into gang networks. Some male gang members provide
long-term protection and coverage for their female partners, even though these relationships are seldom if
ever monogamous and in most cases are often abusive and violent.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. Several women reported that they were
initially prostituted by the gang.
Alcohol and drug use are all too frequent a reference point when discussing sexual engagements with
multiple gang members and with the resulting pregnancies. Women barter their bodies to secure wider
membership and/or acceptance in the gang, but at the same time are also targeted for sexual violence. In a
limited number of cases, however, male partners protect “their women” from the wider abuse possible from
other gang members. In such a scenario, vulnerable young women who are members of gangs, but do not
have “good protection” are highly likely to suffer extended abuse.
3. Female gang members have a history of abuse (and are quite literarily giving birth to a new
generation of gang members)
As outlined above, sexual abuse, rape and gender-based violence are common within the Cape gangs. But,
many of the women interviewed indicated that this was not something new. Given that the interviews
sought to determine the details of their early lives, most interviewees reported sexual abuse within the
4
Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
family, “by uncles” (a generic term for people associated to the family), or others. The experience of sexual
abuse within the gang was often a continuation of sexual abuse in the family.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Ironically, joining the gang, as stated above, offered opportunities to “belong” that were not available from
dysfunctional families. What seems clear is that young women were often attracted to the same violent,
abusive and unreliable men that had shaped their own child and young adulthoods. Sexual violence appears
to be the norm and even in some cases where women reported to the police, they were turned away or
verbally abused by the very authorities from whom they sought recourse.
Sadly, numerous interviews reported that unwanted children, often from different fathers, were the result of
multiple sexual liaisons. These youngsters themselves were either exposed to the milieu of the gang from
early on, or we removed from their mothers by the authorities, their overall future uncertain. In both cases,
their development was unlikely to take place within a loving and protective family environment.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
4. Female gang participants become enmeshed in gangs and are often under considerable control
and surveillance
Female gang members are easily drawn into the world of gangsterism. How girls join gangs varies from a
conscious decision in order to acquire greater status or belonging, to one where individuals literally drift into
gang life, in part because of where and how they grew up. In some neighbourhoods, young women report,
it may in fact be easier to join a gang then to resist doing so. Young woman are not naive as to the activities
of gangs; in part it is the excitement and (illegal) resources that attract them. Equally however, since gangs
are such a strong presence in some communities, joining may also be the path of least resistance, and one
with immediate rewards.
Scarring and gang identification tattoos in visible places – sometimes the face, neck or upper chest –
ensures that gang membership is literally “carried with you”. That makes getting a job in the formal sector
or easy acceptance back into mainstream community life outside of gang areas difficult to achieve. As the
interviews suggest, the “marking” of female members with tattoos and cuts often takes place when they are
drunk or “drugged up” and not fully aware of the consequences, including the health dangers of doing so.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
While this applies also to men, women appear more vulnerable to being “marked” without their consent.
Assuming that many female gang members are actively looking for alternatives to leave the gang is not borne
out by the interviews – this is the exception rather then the rule. Being drawn into gang life, and being marked
by it physically, psychologically and from substance abuse, means few other opportunities are available. When
they are, young women report that they found ordinary jobs, in the retail sector for example, boring and poorly
paid. Such jobs seemed only useful on the instruction of the gang for purposes of shoplifting or fraud.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Finally, as the difficulty of obtaining interviews attested, female gang members are seldom alone. They
accompany their male partners and counterparts, are confined to houses in some cases, and have
surprisingly little independence of movement. That reduces the chances of providing alternatives spaces
and opportunities to counter gang culture. In interviews many expressed fear that “their boyfriends” would
not like what they were saying, and in several cases male gangsters hung around close to the interviews to
“protect their women”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
5. Female gang members participate in criminal and violent acts
The notion, common in some of the descriptions of female gang members, that they are only vulnerable and
exploited members of gangs, and not themselves active participants in violent gang crime, is contradicted
by the interviews. Amongst other crimes, women reported involvement in robberies, drug dealing and
murder. In the case of the latter, women sometimes acted as “lures” to draw individual members of opposing
gangs so that they could be killed. In a number of cases women themselves did the killing. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
5
Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Although closely watched themselves, women report being used to collect “intelligence” not only on other
gangs, but on wider income generating activities, such as extortion, robbery and fraud. In some cases
women commit crimes because it is reported that the police are unlikely to believe that a “women would
have done that”. In some cases women provide sexual services to the police to prevent their own arrest or
that of other gang members.
While women may not always be on the front end of “gang wars”, they generally suffer the consequences.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Gang wars result in a fluidity in gang organisation with serious implications for individual women reliant on
one or a few key gang members for ensuring that they are not subjected to violence. When boyfriends and
protectors are killed the result may be that women who are linked to them are vulnerable to wider sexual
abuse and violence within the gang – as well as potentially outside of it.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
6. Women and girls while being members and confidents of male gangsters are largely excluded
from leadership positions
Many gang leaders in Cape Town have either a community or wider public profile. None of them are women.
Despite a concerted effort to identify gang leaders who were female, there is no evidence that
in any of the most prominent gangs women occupy senior leadership roles. In a few
instances in smaller and lower level all-women gangs, this is the case, but such
structures are often relatively temporary and do not compete, for example, in the
violent contestations around drug turf.
Interestingly, however, two interviewees (both included in the Appendix)
reported that they were responsible for maintaining the gang’s finances,
clearly a role that demands a level of trust with the bosses. One woman in
particular who performed this role seemed to have risen to a position of
some prominence. For the moment, however, at least in the Cape gangs, this
appears to be the exception rather than rule.
Interviews with women gang leaders suggest that the system remains
structured around, and controlled by, male gangsters. While women perform
the various roles that are outlined above, the system remains patriarchal, and
women are largely unable to enter the leadership hierarchy. That does not mean
that individual women are unable to influence the decision-making of gang bosses, but it
seems clear from those we interviewed that they are excluded from the most important decisions taken by
gangs. There may of course be exceptions to this general rule but our interviews provided no evidence that
young women were systematically called upon for their advice or could influence important decisions such
as when to engage in violence.
For women participants then, the gangs in Cape Town provide “places of belonging”, but those resemble
the reality of life of most women living on the Cape Flats outside of the influence of gangs: an environment
where males make the most important decisions and retain the greatest influence.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. This does not mean
that individual women in the system lack agency, only that the system of gangs remains a male dominated
hierarchy and that their influence is constrained.
7. Female gang members often suffer (sexual) abuse by the criminal justice system
While it is not possible to ascertain the exact extent of this phenomenon, female gang members in interviews
point to consistent patterns of abuse when they come into contact with the criminal justice system. This
often includes the provision of sexual services for favours. In several cases when women gang members
approached police to report cases of rape, they were turned away, or further abused. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
6
Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Female gang members appear particularly vulnerable within the justice system. Removed from the gang
milieu, girl and women gang members are seldom dealt respectfully by the police and justice officials more
widely. It appears difficult for them to report cases of crimes of sexual abuse against gang members and
male justice officials often appear to act in sexually predatory ways. This may in part be an established
behaviour given that gangs, as was reported earlier, sometimes themselves offer up female members to
provide sexual services to placate police. In prison, female gang members report that they are asked to
provide sexual services to correctional officials.
Female gang members therefore are seen as available, marginalised (thus unlikely to be believed) and
therefore easy to abuse, with few consequences for the officials involved.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Several of the female gangsters interviewed served prison sentences. Prison provided both an escape from
the street culture of gangs, but also a deeper step into the world of the gangs on release. A prison sentence
means that the chances of obtaining a job become negligible and in some cases removes the wider social
and community scaffolding (families and children in particular) that prompt women to leave gangs.
These seven themes provide some insight into the recruitment, life and abuse faced by female gang members.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
It should be emphasised here that many of the women that were interviewed are extremely difficult to talk with,
often angry at “the system” and the inequality they strong perceive, or are regular abusers of drugs and alcohol.
Programming in the area is highly challenging and the notion that the women concerned are only innocent victims
eager and willing to participate in gang prevention and reintegration programmes should be quickly dispensed
with. That does not of course mean that programming is not possible, only that after the process of interviews, it is
clear how difficult this is, and that it must be clearly thought through. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. The following section provides an overview
of some of the alternatives in this regard.
Towards a policy framework for programming
The interviews did not specifically question the girls and women about what external interventions might assist
them to exit gangs and gang culture. Indeed, many of the interviewees showed a deep scepticism to outside
attempts to solve the problems of the gangs, including the specific challenges faced by women. A few women
suggested by implication that “do-gooder” attempts to try and resolve problems that were built on deep levels of
inequality and marginalisation were doomed to fail. At the same time, in every interview, participants expressed
a regret for some of their behaviour and had a clear sense that their lives could have been something else – and
perhaps something better. In most cases though, particularly younger women, could not see how they could
extract themselves from the gangs, and in any event many did not express a need for doing so.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
It was older women who on reaching their thirties became more conscious that the period that they had spent
within the gangs had been “wasted time”. One of these women, who had broken away from the gang in which
she had been a member, allowed us to film her as she recounted her story. This video (provided with the report),
indicates a dawning realisation on her part that she needed to extricate herself from her gang. She did so with the
assistance and support of local church leaders but the prerequisite seemed to be her own recognition that the
gangs offered her no future. She also expressed a strong desire to reconnect to her children who had been taken
from her. Her own health had been ruined by excessive alcohol and drug consumption and unsafe sexual practices:
she died of HIV/AIDS a few months after the interview was filmed.
Drawing on the interview material and discussions with a range of community and other stakeholders present
in gang areas, a range of possible areas of programmatic action are suggested below.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. It should be noted that
these are focussed specifically at the issue of curbing the involvement of girls and women in gangs and gang
culture, although some of the suggestions have wider applicability for all participants in gang activities. Clearly, a
comprehensive package of responses are required, and so focussing on only one or two of the suggestions below
would not be sufficient. These would be required to be part of a broader package of responses. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Given this, the recommended sets of actions are divided into three categories:
• More immediate and specific actions that seek to provide channels, opportunities and points of contact for
women seeking to exit gangs;
• Medium-term interventions to prevent recruitment into gangs in the first place; and,
• Longer-term programmes that concentrate on changing structural conditions that push girls and young
women into gangsterism.
The relationship between the three response levels is illustrated in the figure below.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Short-term
Providing
“pathways” to exit
Medium-term
Preventing recruitment
Long-term
Changing structural conditions
and providing alternatives
Short-term: Providing “pathways” to exit
The initial step to leave the gang is fraught with danger for individual women. They may be threatened or suffer
physical violence. Developing such “pathways” requires a neutral space where women can be engaged and the first
steps taken to begin to extricate them from the gang milieu. “Pathways” are therefore about opportunity and the
identification of young girls and women, both as gang members, but also as individuals who wish to exit the gang
environment. “Pathways” by their nature are short-term, an initial step, that must be followed by other interventions.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
1. Reduce surveillance that male gang members have of female gang members
As indicated, one of the challenges of interviewing female gang members is that there is a high degree of surveillance
of their lives. This greatly reduces the possibility for girls and young women to make contact with outsiders who
could provide a “bridge” to another life. The same of course also applies to young men (see Pinnock 2016, pp. 282-
296), although the experience of conducting interviews with both men and woman gang members does suggest
that the latter find it more difficult to operate independently of the gang once they are clearly affiliated.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. One of the
reasons for this (ironically given that this is also a form of internal protection) is that boyfriends in the gang are highly
controlling of their girlfriends or of girls in the gang more generally.
Young girls are therefore often “trapped” in gang areas that are marginalised and disconnected from the wider city.
Young women are acutely aware of the isolation that living in gang areas brings and few venture outside. Planning
and economic development alternatives must in the longer-term seek to break down such divisions introducing
flows of positive traffic into previously isolated areas.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
In the short term however, identifying activities that might provide such a “bridge” to exit gangsterism must be
context specific. This might include a range of activities from community style events that are specific for womenonly to girls-only sport fixtures, but targeted at gang areas. It has been suggested that programmes by outside
bodies (local government, churches or non-government organisations) that are unthreatening to male gangsters
and which are seen as “feminine” would provide a useful way to ensure “privacy”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. Thus, despite the stereotypical and
gender reinforcing nature of projects that focus on make-up or beauty treatments, they might provide a possibility
to bring women together in ways that would exclude men.
2. Identify girls/young women that are abused and/or looking for a pathway out of gangsterism
While general awareness raising through art, theatre, lectures and associated activities may play a role in
promoting alternatives, the identification of individual girls and women to target and provide more specific
options may in fact be a more productive approach. In the course of the “bridge” activities outlined above, and
in context where male gang surveillance is reduced, women who are ready or willing to seek a life outside of
the gang environment. Discussions with women involved with gangs suggest that one place where (if they
are ready to exit) effective contacts and onwards referrals may be made, and where there is some privacy, is in
hospital casualty stations.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Sadly, given that they have already lived much of their productive life within a gang environment, those seeking
to exit gangs may often be older women. They may be looking to leave for a number of reasons, including that
they are facing competition from younger women entering the gang, that they are eager to connect with their
children, and that they are no longer attracted, and indeed may be highly disgusted by the context in which they
live; recognising that they have missed out on developing more productive lives. In several interviews this was
mentioned as “the lost years”.
One response in this regard may also be to build a more effective picture of the girls and women involved in gangs.
Currently, even their overall number is uncertain, and there has been no attempt to, for example, build a database
of female gang members and their backgrounds. This should not be for purposes of law enforcement but to identify
patterns as well as individuals who can be assisted.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
3. Work with the police and justice system to end abuse when female gang members report crime
(particularly sexual abuse) and immediately provide alternative “pathways”
Female gang members who have suffered violence at the hands of male gangsters, including their boyfriends,
may be eager to exit or to report these crimes to the police. Yet, as indicated, the interviews suggested multiple
occasions when female gang members had reported cases of rape or sexual abuse to the police, but were either
turned away and/or verbally and physically abused.
It is imperative to develop viable “pathways” for female gang members who report abuse or rape to the police.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
This includes ensuring sympathetic and fair treatment and providing appropriate levels of protection. Just as the
symbolic act of being abused by the police when trying to report a crime hardens women to the belief that the
system as a whole is stacked against them, and that they have no alternatives to life in the gang, so a professional
and caring response may provide the motivation for exiting gangsterism. The police for their part should avoid
using the reporting of crime by female gang members as a way to recruit informants within the gangs.
Female gang members are often damaged individuals who show little trust for outsiders. They often look and act
aggressively and police officers may stereotype them as troublemakers almost immediately when they report crime.
It is worthwhile therefore attempting to ensure a single point of contact for female gang members attempting to
report to the police. If only a few cases are successful, in protecting the women involved, word will spread that the
system (or at least parts of it) does care. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
4. The isolation that prison provides should be used to provide exit routes
The interviews suggest that prison does bring a degree of isolation to female gangsters. Prison gangs, and their
culture, while powerful systems of organisation in male prisons, are less strong in female facilities. Several women
who had been imprisoned spoke of the time that prison provided for them to reflect. At the same time, however,
female gangsters were also subject to abuse in prison from staff, including sexual abuse. (This of course applies
to other women too.) It should be an absolute priority to end violence, including rape, from staff against female
prisoners. Unless this is done, this system will not be viewed as an alternative to a life in the gang. As the interviews
attest, female gang members do not make a distinction between the government system and the gang system:
both are abusive and the gang system at least provides resources and a degree of protection.
While prison must and cannot be seen as an alternative to gangsterism, it may however be a place – given that
many female gang members spend time in prison – where more effective approaches can be made to women
gang members and alternative “pathways” provided. Yet, there are few if any programmes targeting female gang
members in prison. This is an opportunity for developing viable programming responses.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Medium term: Preventing recruitment
If providing “pathways” outside of gangsterism is a step to reaching out to women already
enmeshed in its networks, preventing recruitment of young women in the first place
must be a priority. Interventions in this area are partly aimed at replacing the sense of
belonging that gangs provide, but also at raising the awareness of the dangers of
substance abuse and unsafe sexual practices. Critically too it must focus on positive
female role models and building better relations with the police – more specifically
female police officers.
1. Provide “systems of belonging” for girls at school in gang areas
As suggested by female gang members, gangs are able to recruit and retain
membership because they replace families and other systems of belonging in
fractured communities. Programme responses that seek to provide a sense of
belonging to girls and young women would reduce one of the key motivations
for joining gangs.
Creating such systems of “belonging” would require investment in a variety of programmes
and activities in marginalised areas, including sports, youth groups, crafts and educational projects. Such
activities need to begin to include girls as early as possible, ensuring that positive social circles and networks
are built.
As far as possible they must target young women vulnerable to developing relationships with gangs. Such
vulnerabilities may be a feature of geography (living in a gang dominated area), family (the presence of
abuse or links to gangs), or behaviour (having a gang member as a boyfriend).Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
2. Focus on drug demand reduction and sexual awareness education
Drugs, alcohol and sex are constant themes that emerge from the interviews as being a closely connected
triangle that enmeshes girls and young women into the gang milieu. A significant proportion of sexual abuse
takes places when both victims and perpetrators are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Older
women in particular were acutely aware of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. In contrast, young women
in the interviews were largely oblivious to the dangers, and if they were aware of them they did not register
it as a great concern. Doing drugs, drinking heavily and engaging in unsafe sexual practices were considered
normal parts of everyday life within the gang. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
What is required is a concerted effort to reach young girls in particular to highlight the dangers of substance
abuse and unsafe sexual practices. The use of social media, and more targeted ways of reaching girls
vulnerable to recruitment into gangs is required.
3. Promote positive female role models drawn from communities where gangs are present, including
ex-gang members
As the summary of the interviews suggests, the social frame of reference for young girls who are vulnerable
to recruitment into gangs largely excludes any positive female role models. It is critically important for girls
to see success stories of women from gang areas. The constant narrative in the interviews is of a system
stacked against individual girls – there are no options but to join the gangs and the “system” (the police and
the authorities in general) is often seen as worse than the gangs themselves.
One of the challenges here, interviews with community leaders suggest, is that those who succeed quickly leave
gang areas, further alienating those who remain from wider society. Establishing a system of mentors for girls
and young women is one possibility here, as is the use of specially trained female police officers who act as both
contact points and mentors for girls vulnerable to gang recruitment, or already within the gangs themselves.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
4. Build positive relations with the police – including female police officers – at schools
The various interview summaries suggest the wide divide that exists between the police and gangsters. The
police are seen as exploitative, corrupt and abusive. For girl gangsters the police appear to be a source of
significant levels of sexual violence. Levels of trust are low and most interviewees viewed the police as part
of the problem and not the solution. One immediate way to improve these relations is to build better ways
in which girls can engage with the police. This includes better oversight and training of the police generally,
but could also include more specific interventions such as trained female police officers tasked with seeking
out and engaging with girls in gangs (or those vulnerable to recruitment).
It should also be noted that the police may sometimes target female gang members to act as informers,
precisely because they are also vulnerable to police action themselves. While this may be a necessary evil, our
experience is that the recruitment of informers by the police is seldom a process where the individual welfare
of girls is carefully considered. While beyond the scope of this paper, this is an area that requires review.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Providing more positive relations with the police will greatly outweigh any benefits that are achieved by
arresting and imprisoning young women in a context where further abuse is likely. In that sense the young
women interviewed are entirely right: the police are part of the problem. Breaking the cycle of violence
and reducing vulnerability of girls to recruitment in gangs must begin with a change in the way policing
is conducted with the focus, no matter how difficult, of developing relationships of trust with vulnerable
young girls in gang afflicted communities.
Long term: Changing structural conditions and providing alternatives
Gangs, gang culture and the role of women within them, cannot be confronted without a broader response that
addresses the structural and other inequalities that give rise to them. In this sense, the “system” as described by
women in the interviews must be changed, both from the perspective of criminal justice responses, but also from
the very earliest interventions related to early childhood development, and breaking the cycles of violence within
the family (for a more detailed discussion see Adams 2011).Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
1. Develop effective care for the children of female gang members
While the development of more effective measures to ensure childcare in gang afflicted communities
has been highlighted most recently in the context of Cape Town by Don Pinnock (2016), this is critically
important for the children of female gangsters themselves. Providing effective care outside of the influence
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
of the gang milieu is one important way in which the generational cycle of recruitment can be broken. As
indicated above too, and while great care needs to be taken in this respect, linking up with “lost children”
often appears to be the motivation for older women seeking to exit from the gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
2. Reduce gender-based violence within families and communities
The accounts of young women caught between the vortex of gang membership and the police suggest
the degree to which levels of gender-based violence is self-reinforcing. Young women who are involved
in gangs have invariably been seriously and serially abused by the men they have grown up with. As they
grow older, paradoxically, the seek security in environments and with other men who have many of the
same characteristics. Reducing violence in the home in marginalised areas is thus an important outcome if
women’s vulnerability to recruitment into gangs, and resulting violence, is to be reduced. Without effective
interventions in this regard the cycle of violence and gang recruitment is unlikely to be broken.
While the results may not be immediate, programmatic responses include a combination of, amongst
others, awareness raising, education, effective referrals and protection of victims and witnesses, and the
prosecution of suspected offenders.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
3. Introduce accessible and effective drug treatment facilities in gang areas
As is illustrated by the interviews, substance abuse remains a defining feature of gang
existence. Providing for systems of drug treatment is an important way of focussing
on reducing the harm of drug use. It also provides a useful way in which young
women can be provided with “pathways” out of gang affiliation. Yet, drug
treatment remains underfunded and not easily accessible for many in
marginalised communities.
4. Provide employment alternatives for young female gangsters
While the interviews do suggest that young female gang members find
the jobs that they are likely to get as “boring”, and leave them soon after, the
argument for ensuring employment remains a powerful one. Holding down
a job can provide focus and direction and importantly too, provides a way to
remove women from gang areas for much of the day. In addition, it also allows
young women to see and experience a wider world outside of the marginalised
gang afflicted areas in which they might otherwise be confined.
One of the challenges of employment is that for women who have been active gang
members for some years, problems of substance abuse and tattoos and scarring, particularly on
the face, greatly reduce their chances of employment. (For that reason the removal of tattoos might also
be a useful programmatic intervention.) The lesson for effective responses is that for employment to be
successful as an alternative to gangsterism it must be a possibility as early as possible. Five or ten years within
a gang environment, as some interviewees dolefully reported, are likely to make all but the most resilient
young women unemployable. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Conclusion
The gangs of Cape Town, and the violence associated with them, are a product of deep-rooted structural inequalities
and a criminal justice system – as reported by the very victims and perpetrators who come into contact with it –
that damages and creates conflict perhaps more then it resolves it. Girls and young women are pulled into gangs
through their lives and exposure in areas where gangs provide the principal forms of social organisation for young
people. Other alternatives are few and where they exist they are either not sustained or lack the “glamour” and
resources that gangs provide.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
Yet the consequences for women who become trapped within gangs and gang culture are severe. They are often
unable to adapt to ordinary patterns of life and are increasingly unemployable, even if they were eager to seek a job
in the formal economy. The result is a litany of lost lives and a reinforcing of a “cycle of gangsterism and violence”
as the young children they bear are themselves vulnerable to being drawn into gang life. Violence in the home is
strongly reinforcing, creating patterns of abuse that for many women last a lifetime. In this scenario women often
seek out and form relationships with the very men who subject them to violence.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
While such relations of violence and abuse also applies of course to women outside of gangs, the gang
environment provides a “hothouse” where multiple men with histories of violence and abuse are present, and
so women gang members are arguably more vulnerable then if they were living outside of gang structures and
allegiances.
The pyramid of suggested interventions highlights the degree to which responding to gangs from a gender
perspective remains challenging. It also suggests that any strategy must be long-term in nature and must confront
the driving factors, and cycle of violence and exclusion, that ensure gang recruitment. Nevertheless, and as a
primary objective, in the short term any programmatic response must offer “pathways” for women to exit gangs.
That requires, as in the case of male counterparts, breaking the surveillance and network that women become
embedded in and coaxing them into a new life. The formal systems of the criminal justice process have been
notorious, in the words of the women themselves, of being not a source of resolution but a source of abuse and
further violence. This is a cycle too that must be broken. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
In the medium term it is essential to make girls less vulnerable to recruitment both by removing them from gang
networks, reducing relationships with known gang members, and increasing their own knowledge of the damage
caused and the alternatives. In the longer-term is the prerequisite is to shift the structural conditions that give rise
to gangsterism and to put in place responses, such as drug dependence treatment, that shift the balance in favour
of those seeking to exit. Women see the “the system” as stacked against them. Changing that balance must be the
ultimate aim of all policy and programme interventions.
References
Tani Adams, Chronic Violence and its Reproduction: Perverse Trends in Social Relations, Citizenship, and Democracy
in Latin America, Woodrow Wilson Centre, 2011: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/LAP_111121_
chronicviol2011_single_page.pdf
Anine Kriegler and Mark Shaw, A Citizen’s Guide to Crime Trends in South Africa, Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 2016.
Don Pinnock, Gang Town, Cape Town; Tafelberg, 2016. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
Appendix: Selected Interviews with Female Gang Members
1. “TINA TURNER”: 21 March 2016 and 24 March 2016
“TINA TURNER” is a 23 year old ‘white’ female originally from Brooklyn now residing in Melkbos Strand. The interview
was conducted in Paarden Island. TINA TURNER refused to be recorded as she feared a response from her partner,
who is linked to the 28s gang. The interview was conducted in a car whilst her boyfriend (Ishmael – who spent 13
years in prison for murder and is a ranking 28s gang member) and his cohort (bodyguard) stood waiting outside.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
The interview was conducted in the parking lot at Eden on the Bay in Bloubergstrand. Three days later another
interview with TINA TURNER was conducted, this time in Brooklyn, and without her entourage. She has a son that
is 5 years old who lives with her mother in Brooklyn. Since the inception of her relationship with Ishmael, she has
been steadily and constantly groomed or rather indoctrinated in the way of the Number gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
TINA TURNER asserts that her addiction to drugs, among other things, led her to become involved
with gangs and gang operations. She claims to have had a fallout at home and subsequently
lost her job. Her mother, frustrated with her not working, told her to leave and not come
back until she “could pay for rent and be more responsible”. She further argues that
job opportunities for her kind is “hard to come by these days as the jobs only go to
the blacks and foreigners”. She explains that due to lack of job opportunity and
a looming depression due to her dependency on others, she started hanging
out with the wrong crowd. Her new friends were part of the 28’s gang and they
operated predominantly in the Maitland and Brooklyn areas.
TINA TURNER asserts that many females become gang members. She explains that
females are often addicted to drugs and are thus used by the gang leaders as drug
mules, or they are coerced into stowing contraband or they could be trained into
becoming bandits, i.e. they are groomed into becoming shoplifters. TINA TURNER further
explains that many of the females involved with gangs are sexually exploited, not only by
the gang leader, but sometimes by other male members of the gang. She gives an account
of how female gang members can also be trained to take up arms for the gang. To this regard, they
are given guns or knives and they are asked to “fight for the gangs”. TINA TURNER asserts that it is not easy to break
free from the influence of the gangs, especially if a female is hooked on drugs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. The gang leader serves an employer
function in their lives in that he pays them either in money or drugs or both. As earlier mentioned, sexual relations are
often socialized as going hand in hand with gang protocols.
TINA TURNER has a gang tattoo that was carved into her skin by her boyfriend whilst on a drub binge. Her initiation
into the gang was due to her constantly hanging out with the gang and because her boyfriend is co-leader of the
gang. She insists that it “depends upon who you are and what you can do in the gang…. That’s where they put
you. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. You can kill or do whatever just as long as you are good at
what you do.” TINA TURNER asserts that most positions within the gang can be filled by any sex, but she does agree
leadership is often time male orientated. She explains that gang structures nowadays are quite integrated with
their mixture of different races and sexes. “Anyone can be part of gang…any colour male or female. Back in the day
it was mainly only considered a coloured thing but today anyone is a gangster.” She insists that she has only done
a few shoplifting stunts for the gang.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
TINA TURNER claims that she has never been coerced into any sexual relations with any other gang member
other than her boyfriend, but she verifies that many female gang members “in their drug addicted haze” are forced
into sexual congress with fellow male gang members. She claims to have witnessed much violence as part of
the gangs every day operations and she feels that her association with the gang has in some way numbed her
emotionally. She claims to have “passed the point of no return” and cannot go back to her old life. She wishes that
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
everything was different and that she could have her son back. She explains that there is no place to raise a child
in a gang, but also claims that there are many wayward children that are taken off the street and then assimilated
into the gangs. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. These children are trained to become thieves and killers and they look up to gang leaders as the
gang bosses have new clothes and fancy cars and lots of money. She expresses regret, but at the same time is
realistic about her options.
2. “BEYONCE”: 22 March 2016
“BEYONCE” is a 29 year old ‘coloured’ female from Grassy Park. BEYONCE refused to be recorded during the interview
as she fears that sensitive information may compromise her with her gang, but more with her boyfriend who is
one of the gang leaders. The interview was conducted in Salt River, in the researcher’s car whilst parking close to
the station. She currently resides in Woodstock. She has a 13 year old daughter who lives with her aunt and she
professes to have had experienced at least 4 miscarriages and 3 “back door” abortions.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
BEYONCE claims to have fallen pregnant at 15 years old. The father of her baby was a taxi boss and leader of
the YGSB gang (Young Gifted Six Bob). She left school after her mother asked her to leave home upon hearing
about her pregnancy. She had complications giving birth due to being addicted to drugs during her pregnancy.
BEYONCE claims that her “gangster boyfriend” physically abused her during pregnancy. Her 13 year old daughter
was born with brain damage and was placed in foster care. She is exceptionally emotional as she relays the account
of her 13 year old daughter, often breaking down crying during the interview.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
BEYONCE claims that there are various factors that influenced her association with gangs and gang operations.
Among others, BEYONCE cites that her lack of good guidance from any family members played a big role in the
decisions that she made in her life. She asserts that she yearns for support and understanding when she fell
pregnant. She claims that she was a stupid child herself at 15 and she regrets her choices. She reminisces upon
how fearful she was about telling her mom that she was pregnant. She explains that she knew nothing about
raising a child, nor about having a child.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. She explains that she fell pregnant after her first sexual experience and
that it was a defining point in her life. Thus, being out on the streets, pregnant and 15 years old, she turned to her
boyfriend for support. Apparently all she received from him was scorn and abuse, she claims to have never received
any warmth or love from her relationship from him, instead he treated her like one of his soldiers and she groomed
in the way of gangsters from the time that she was pregnant.
According to BEYONCE all the females associated with her gang were “slaves to drugs and many of them were
forced to have sex with the guys. That was when we were all high. But even though they had their stukkies (other
girlfriends), the men in the gang would always protect the women.”
BEYONCE recalls being identified to steal and shoplift in the Golden Acre district.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. The gang provided amble training
regarding pickpocketing and stealing from individuals and shops. She has three gang affiliated tattoos on her
body. BEYONCE asserts that she was paid in drugs and “small money”. She defines “small money” as being wages
only enough to buy toiletries. She explains that the gang would have its base at a house in Woodstock. There were
about eight other females linked to that particular gang. The females would predominantly be responsible for
hiding contraband and firearms and also for shop theft. She claims at least two of the females associated with the
YGSB gang were violent in terms of being able to skilfully handle weapons, viz. guns and knives.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
BEYONCE explains that she spent two years in prison for jewellery theft. Her accomplices got the same sentence.
Furthermore, she explains that she learned hairstyling skills in prison and that her boyfriend rarely visited her.
According to BEYONCE, her boyfriend had many other girlfriends outside while she was incarcerated. Thus she
feels that the gang abandoned her during her prison stretch. She affiliated with a different gang while in prison.
BEYONCE posits that the prison administration abuse female prisoners sexually in exchange for simple privileges
such as visitation rights or skills development participation (leadership opportunity) etc. She also explains are easily
obtainable in prison and that her prison stretch did nothing to rehabilitate her drub habit.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
When BEYONCE left prison she had nowhere else to go but back to her old ways. She explains that it is difficult to
find employment in the real world and that “living with the gangs and their ways makes life easy … everything is
faster and you can get that rush quickly. I don’t have family so who gives a fuck what I do.” She understands that
individuals involved in gangs, especially drug addicted gang members can be coerced into doing almost anything
– including murder. She claims to have stabbed a woman who she found having sex with her boyfriend. “I stabbed
both of them … the next day he hit me through my face”. She shows me two missing teeth in her mouth as
evidence of the violence in her relationship.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
BEYONCE claims that she is unable to leave the gangs as she knows no other way to live. She explains that to leave
the gangs she would have to leave drugs, and that this appears to be “mission impossible” as she has tried in vain
to rid herself of drugs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
3. “MADONNA”: 29 March 2016
“MADONNA” is a 17 year old ‘coloured’ female. She resides in a small wooden house in the back of her uncle’s house
in Lavender Hill. The interview was conducted in the researcher’s car in Lavender Hill.
MADONNA claims to have a 3 year old son who is being raised by her sister. MADONNA is linked
to the 28’s gang and explains that she is “mildly addicted to drugs”. She explains that due
to financial struggles within her family, she was forced to leave school in Grade 8. She
worked temporarily as a packer in a supermarket until she was fired for theft. MADONNA
explains that she lost her job because she stole three chocolate slabs. She worked for
a businessman temporarily until she was raped by him. She claims to have gone to
the police station to report the matter, but that they laughed at her an no charges
were subsequently reported. She explains that the police in the area know of her
gang affiliation.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
MADONNA joined the gang after being asked to hide a “warm yster” (firearm that
police are looking for as part of a criminal investigation). In exchange for her helping
the gang hide the firearm she was paid by the gang boss. Many other subsequent
“jobs” followed to aide the gang and this is how she became a gang member.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
MADONNA explains that she has “marched as a soldier for the 28’s” many times in that
she and her fellow gang members had many battles with fellow gangs. She claims to have
being part of many “drive-by” shooting incidents. According to MADONNA, the shooters or
sometimes the ‘hammermen” (gang assassins) will train incumbent gang members in how to use weapons.
She elaborates that the gang seniors will supply gang members with weapons and ammunition “or whatever else
we need to fuck up whomever we must fuck up… the police, other gangs… we shoot them in their poes if they
mess with us or with our business.”
MADONNA explains that she has the respect of the peers within the gang. She claims that she has never being
sexually violated or compromised by anyone in the gang. “Honestly, they are my family.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. I live for them and I will die
for them because I have received more love from them in this life than I ever did from any fucking member of my
blood family.” MADONNA posits that there are many other female gang members but many of them are “drugged
up zombies”. “I feel sorry for them but they serve a purpose in our gang. We call them the ‘expendables’ because
you can use them for anything. They are like shit on toilet-paper. Sies! Now this is why I don’t do drugs that much.
I only tik (use methamphetamine) when I feel sad… sometimes I use ungah (crystal meth). These tik-koppe (drug
addicts) can be used as bait for the police when they put too much heat on the gang or to do easy stupid hits
(violent acts) against a poes that needs to be stabbed for talking kak (shit)”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
MADONNA explains that she is good at what she does because she is devoted to the 28’s. She has been versed
in the prison gang mythology of Nongoloza and is articulate in the prison gang hybrid language called Sabela.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
MADONNA explains that she is out on bail for two separate cases. The one case involves her allegedly stabbing a
rival taxi boss in the neck and the other criminal case involves her pouring boiling hot water on her ex-boyfriend.
MADONNA explains that she feels empowered as a woman within the gang. She claims to have unwavering respect
in her community. “We always give back to the people in the community. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. We help the old aunties who struggle
with their pension. We do much more than this fucking government do for people. We have more respect than the
Mapuza (police) in this community. Even when I went to jail my gang was with me. I am protected wherever I go.
Why would I want to leave them? I maybe young, but I am not stupid. I see many people rise and fall in the gang – I
learn from them and their mistakes. I will lead this gang one day soon. I am gonna have a big taxi business and no
one will fuck with me. You see the way we run drugs here? There is no stopping us. The police help us bring the
drugs in. So you tell me who is the real criminal?”
MADONNA elaborates that youth are recruited into the gangs from as early as eight years old. “It is difficult in the
townships when these youngsters have to go to school with no food. It’s a kak life for them. They find more love
with the gangs as they can earn money and respect with the 28’s.” MADONNA has the name of her dead mother
tattooed on her chest and she has the 28’s crest tattooed on her left arm.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
4. “DOLLY PARTON”: 30 March 2016
“DOLLY PARTON” is a 39 year old ‘coloured’ female living in Bonteheuwel. DOLLY asserts that she also has a property
that she “makes use of” at Century City. The interview was conducted in Cape Town CBD in a restaurant. She refused
to be recorded in any way – “no writing either”. She claims to have three children who are “all grown up already and
live their own lives”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
DOLLY PARTON is a member the Americans gang and professes to be a “Banker” (she claims to handle much of the
gang’s logistics regarding drugs and the sale of drugs). DOLLY PARTON explains that she used to have an important job
with the city council but lost her job due to “a stupid matter regarding monies being misappropriated.” She spent two
years in prison for fraud and is currently under suspended sentence. She claims that whilst working for the city council
she was introduced to many gang bosses who “were filtering their money via the city through many government
tenders”. She became great friends with a gang boss who saw business potential with her. After her prison term she
joined the gang boss’s legitimate business entity and is paid by him to keep his business profile “clean”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
DOLLY PARTON explains that “politicians are the biggest thieves… they are devils in disguise, actually the biggest
murderers are the politicians who steal from the people all the time. Am I ashamed to be affiliated with a criminal
cartel? No! At least here I have an earning potential and I am not limited because I am a female.” She asserts that
she is afforded utmost respect by gang members, but elaborates that she only interacts with certain high-ranking
members of the gang.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
DOLLY PARTON explains that she’s aware of the trend by many legitimate business people now using gang bosses as
hired muscle to facilitate a forced business transaction. Furthermore, she explains that business entrepreneurs offer
gang bosses the ability to reform their gang fraternities into successful and pseudo legitimate business identities.
She elaborates that “in this day and age it is very important to be linked to powerful people. If you know the right
person they can help push you all the way to the top. It’s a matter of one hand wiping the other hand. I have yet
to meet someone that cannot be bought. Money can buy lots of power… anything from police officials, to taxi
tenders, to a murder docket going missing from a police-station or courtroom archive…”
DOLLY PARTON explains that the gang boss pays her a legitimate salary and that much of his income is generated
from the sale of drugs in Cape Town. She reports that she’s not directly involved in the sale of drugs but that she
has been exposed to the inner workings of the gang, that is, she knows where and how the gangs access the
drugs, where it is stored and how it is distributed. She claims to know many of the gang members responsible for
distribution. DOLLY PARTON explains that competition between rival gangs or “up-and-coming” new gangs is fierce
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
and that she has been privy to many drug related disputes where “heavy hitters were taken out by gang assassins
in order to keep this drug engine going the right way.” Furthermore DOLLY PARTON posits that her relationship
with the gangs and their leaders has made her fearless as a woman – she feels that her experience with gangs has
exposed her to new tolerances and that she has accompanying credibility in this “man’s world, where men are the
boss and women are expected to know their place – but not me, I am respected as a peer and a partner”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
DOLLY PARTON elaborates that her children know of her criminal associations, but that they have a mutual
understanding and love her unconditionally. She has had opposition from her parents who are “church people and
old school so they don’t know how to move and shake these days. If you do not know how the streets operate,
then these streets will eat you…” She claims to be happy with her criminal associates and has no intention of
changing her career path “I’ve been in a nine to five and there were more sharks in that job than what I meet up
with here where society call these guys gangsters when they are really businessmen hustling to beat the system
that honestly fucks everyone. The rich gets richer and they don’t give a shit about the poor people. So know you
have these guys using the initiative and smarts to come up and make money.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. They come out of dirt poor places
and can rise to become millionaires. I look up to that type of shit.”
5. “BARBARA STREISAND”: 31 March 2016 and 3 April 2016
“BARBARA STREISLAND” is a 33 year old Chinese/’coloured’ female linked to the JFKs gang (Junky Funky Kids) in
Parkwood. She refused to be recorded as she is an active gang member and did not trust that her interview
would not compromise her with the gang. She agrees to the taking of notes.
BARBARA STREISAND claims to have 4 children having fallen pregnant at the age of 14
years old. The father of her first child was linked to the 26s gang and was notoriously
violent in the Parkwood area. All four her children have different fathers. All the
fathers of the children have gang associations and have been in prison for most
of their lives. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. She is affiliated with the Junky Funky Kids through the father of her
second child whom she later married and divorced.
BARBARA STREISAND asserts that all four of the men that fathered children with
her were exceptionally violent men. Furthermore she claims that they were violent
in the presence of their children and others. BARBARA STREISAND recounts that
drugs and alcohol were often the underlining feature of the violence in her life. “Kyk
hier (look here) they were all fokken in their poes (cunt) ge-eart (completely deluded
due to drug abuse) and so they take their kak (shit) out on a woman. They are poes
(cunt) cowards. But I…I was too stupid and too much in need of their company and what
they could give me to see that they were devils in my life. I started taking drugs myself. It would
help me escape all the kak (shit) in my life. My one child (her 18 year old daughter) was burnt with
boiling hot water while I left her with him. I just went to the shop to get some food for us.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. When I got back to the
house my child was burnt and he was still asleep – drugged up.” She claims that social services took her daughter
and two other children from her while her aunt raises her 4 year old son. She joined the gangs as she had left school
at an early age and couldn’t find a meaningful job.
BARBARA STREISAND claims that there are little or no job opportunities for young women on the Cape Flats. She
explains that most people in the townships live in poverty and that drugs play an integral part of everyone’s lives in
those communities. “Everyone tiks (uses methamphetamine)…the laaities (youth) and the ou toppies (old folk)…
everyone is in their poes (cunt) getik (completely drugged up).”
BARBARA STREISAND started working for the gangs when she was given a commission to collect money on a
taxi for a gang boss.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. She claims that he had about ten taxis and that he commanded substantial influence in the
Parkwood area. She explains that to her, her life became more meaningful when she joined the gangs as they took
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
care of her. To this end she explains that she was given money and drugs and protection as a form of payment. “I
still ride for free on all these taxis…I never pay because they are all too poes bang for me (too scared of me)”. When
asked to elaborate that her association with the Junky Funky Kids has provided her with a reputation so much so
that grown men are scared to mess with her. She claims that her gang boss is influential in prison too. “When he
was imprisoned he still had a lot of power here on the outside. We would get messages from the inside and he
would continue to run his business from prison.”
BARBARA STREISAND explains that working with the taxis for the gang entailed a certain degree of training: she
“trained with the eye” in that her training was not formal but she would learn from how the other gang members
operated. She was given a knife and shown how to stab people in a way that they could either hurt or kill. She was
later given many guns to hide for the gang. In later years some gang members taught her how to shoot and even
how to disassemble and clean guns.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
BARBARA STREISAND asserts that she was never made to feel any less because she was a female gang member – she
claims that she only felt disempowered when she was beaten by the fathers of her children. “But they would never do
that kak (shit) to me ever again. They know not to fok (fuck) with me.” BARBARA STREISAND maintains that she spent
three years in prison for killing someone. She claims that she stabbed a woman at the taxi rank in self-defence.
BARBARA STREISAND asserts that she knows of prison Number gangs in the female section of Pollsmoor prison, but
that “they are pap (weak) because they cannot mos (just) be Ndotas (bonefide Number gang members) because
they are females.”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
BARBARA STREISAND claims that prison life was not that difficult as she made great friendships and she learnt to
sew. Furthermore, she asserts that she “almost stopped taking tik in the mang (jail), but you can get the tik there
so easily it was difficult to quit”. BARBARA STREISAND returned to the Junky Funky Kids gang when she left prison.
This time however, she involved herself more with drug distribution.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
BARBARA STREISAND can sabela (speak the bastardized prison language). She explains that she learnt to sabela
in order to “know what they are saying…plus it is good for a woman to be able to wys (show) a poes (cunt) that
is trying to kyk ‘n ding (trying to pick a fight with her). BARBARA STREISAND explains that being able to speak the
language of the gangs is very important especially for a woman “in the bendes” (gang).
BARBARA STREISAND believes that the police are of little use in the Cape Flats communities. She claims that many
police are paid by the gang bosses in order to facilitate gang operations. BARBARA STREISAND claims to have
stabbed a policeman when he second-guessed her at the gang boss’s house. “The Mapuza (police) are kak (shit)
scared of us. We pay them so I don’t give a fok (fuck) about them, no respect for them.” BARBARA STREISAND admits
that she still uses drugs and that she is sometimes forgetful as a result.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
6. “GRACE JONES”: 1 April 2016
GRACE JONES is a 42 year old ‘coloured’ woman from Hanover Park linked to the Mongrels gang. She refused to have
her interview recorded. GRACE JONES is a beautiful woman marred by the apparent damaging effects of continued
drug use. She has piercing green eyes and speaks with a soft voice. GRACE JONES claims to have been an A-level
scholar until she started experimenting with drugs when she was 12 years old. She claims to have grown up in
Bo-Kaap but was expelled from school for her drug addiction. She started hanging out with the Mongrels gang in
Hanover Park when she was forced to move there. She lived with her aunt in Hanover Park as her mother “wants
nothing to do” with her.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
GRACE JONES explains that being on drugs, she lost interest in her schooling and found hanging out with the
street corner gangs much more exciting. As she was hooked on drugs she asserts that the then Mongrels gang
boss raped her and subsequently prostituted her as an asset for the gang. That gang boss was later killed in prison.
GRACE JONES claims that she bore a child out of the rape experience. The child was given up for adoption. She
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
moved with the gang operations as they utilized her and many other females like her in the capacity of “winkel
boewe” (shoplifters). She explains that they were programmed to target small jewellery stores and cellphone stores.
She was also versed in how to use weapons. GRACE JONES had about ten short prison stints related to theft and
aggravated assault.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. She claims that the longest she had to spend in prison was one year and nine months. GRACE
JONES explains that although she has never murdered anyone, she has been in many gang fights. “kyk hier (look
here)…as a soldier for the gang you see lots of blood…there’s lots of Ghazie (blood) everywhere…as ons moet trap
dan trap ons (if we must throw down and get dirty then we will)”.
GRACE JONES explains that protection rackets are part and parcel of gang operations in Hanover Park. “Everyone
must pay us…if the taxis wanna (want to) drive through our area then they must pay to do so…even the council,
we can make life difficult for those council workers that come here and want to fix things without paying us. It is
easy for the gang to hurt them and take their tools or whatever they have”. GRACE JONES explains that the police
are also paid by the gang boss and that they therefore facilitate and enable many gang operations. According to
her there is no limit to what money can buy. “Even if we kill someone we can tol (reverse) that case. The case file or
court docket will just go missing. It is easy to get to people if you have money.”
GRACE JONES explains that drug distribution plays a big part in the economic success of gangs. She warns that
drug distribution points are fiercely contested and that many people die for trying to invade certain drug hotspots.
She shows a scar on her arm where she was shot in a drug related turf war against the rival Young Americans
gang. She further explains that as a gang member she’s not necessarily “considered as a female, more just a gang
member”. GRACE JONES has a Mongrels tattoo on her chest and the name of her son on her leg. She explains that
her involvement with the gangs has made her much more tolerant of violent behaviour. “When I was a child I was
scared of these things…guns and knives and blood. But now, I’ve been living in this life for so long this is all that
I know…this is all that we see in Hanover Park. What else must we do?” GRACE JONES confirms that the gang
provides for her in a way that any other employer would for an employee. She is paid by the gang boss and also has
access to drugs and alcohol as they control a few shebeens and drug hotspots in Hanover Park.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
GRACE JONES asserts that even though she was forced into prostitution at a young age, she is no longer in that
business. She claims that she was young and naïve at the time and did not have the courage to stand up for herself.
She tells that her early prostitution experiences have denatured her sexual appetite. GRACE JONES asserts that
being raped made her hate men for a very long time. She says that the experience has hardened her and that she
more easily was able to become violent as a result. She explains that she has chosen to be lesbian as she is more
attracted to women nowadays.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. GRACE JONES posits that she is happy being a gang member and that she will do
anything for her gang; the gang boss takes good care of her and any other females in their gang. Although she
expresses a few regrets regarding her choices in life, she “is at a point of no return and will always be a Mongrel”.
7. “MARIAH CAREY”: 5 April 2016
MARIAH CAREY is a 28 year old ‘coloured’ woman linked to the HLs gang (Hard Livings) in Manenberg. MARIAH
CAREY claims to have two children that were taken away from her by people representing the Department of Social
Development. Her children are 13 and 8 years old respectively. MARIAH CAREY was raised in Manenberg and recalls
that her mother was often violently abused by her father. She also recalls that one of her father’s closest friends
whom she called “Uncle Boeta” (Uncle Brother) frequently raped her as a child. Her parents were alcoholics and she
would be abused while they (her parents) were “so dronk that they had a five day babelas” (so inebriated that they
were hungover for five days at a time). “He would come into my room while my brother and sisters were asleep and
lie on top of me”. She explains that she had told her parents of the rape incidents but that it was all “swept under
the carpet.” MARIAH CAREY recalls that Uncle Boeta would be the source of income in their home for a very long
time. To this end her parents, being alcoholics, were reluctant to believe her “rape stories” as they feared that they
would be cut off from their alcohol supply. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
MARIAH CAREY recalls that her father was imprisoned at Polsmoor for three years. He had defrauded some church
folk out of monies. During her father’s prison term her mother fell pregnant and had a child from Uncle Boeta.
Significantly, both MARIA CAREY and her mother were pregnant at the same time and thus, she claims, her daughter
and her brother – “’n laatlammetjie” (a child born to a woman considered to be older in years) – were raised as being
brother and sister. This dysfunctional family scenario fraught with violence and alcoholism drove MARIAH CAREY to
the streets were she found corner-side gang members to be more appealing than both school and the poisonous
environment that she experienced at home. “The ouens (the guys) were always cool man…they were dressed
befok (they were stylishly dressed) and they had the fastest cars.” MARIA CAREY explains that her attraction to gang
life and her gang membership was catalysed by their care-free life. According to her, they (the gang members) had
access to everything – drugs, money, fast cars, stylish clothing. To a young girl trapped in a dysfunctional family this
life appealed to her much more as she sought to escape the adversity within her family life.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
At first, MARIA CAREY, explains she just hung out with the boys from the gang at the street corners where after she
would “drive in their cars with them while they were woelig (active with gang operations)”. MARIA CAREY posits
that she moved out of home and had her mother raise the two children alone. She started experimenting with
drugs whilst with the gang and she was initiated into the gang core. She has a large “Hard Livings” tattoo on her
upper thigh. MARIAH CAREY claims that one of the gang lieutenants was “busy with Ghazie (blood) only (he was an
assassin).” She explains that this man taught her how to become skilled in working with various weapons. She was
taught how to stab and how to shoot targets. Although MARIA CAREY does not openly say it, she hints that she
has been involved in violence. She explains in a matter of fact way the many instances when rival gang members
were either maimed or killed by her gang and in some cases gang members were mutilated or dismembered. She
is passionate about her gang credo and is completely immersed in prison hybrid language called sabela.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
MARIAH CAREY claims to have been jailed for six years for matters relating to attempted murder
and aggravated assault. She admits to have killed other people and that “the police were
too stupid” to place her at any of those crimes. MARIAH CAREY explains that she feels
empowered as a gang member. She does not feel belittled in any way by her gang peers
and explains that she is respected in both the gang and community. MARIAH CAREY
is paid by the gang and she has access to drugs as they also distribute and sell drugs
within the communities. She explains that she has nothing to do with the drug
distribution (although she is a user). She asserts that her position within the gang
is related to “bloedwerk” (blood work, more especially violent acts commissioned by
the gang). MARIAH CAREY claims to have an “on – again – off – again” relationship
with one of the high-ranking members of the HLs, but that he has now been in prison
for the past four years. She says they have a child together that has been placed in
foster care.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
MARIAH CAREY was interviewed in Mitchell’s Plain. She refused to be recorded and her
friend tried to steal some of the researcher’s belongings whilst the interview was underway.
8. “RIHANNA”: 7 April 2016 and 9 April 2016
“RIHANNA” is a 25 year old ‘coloured’ woman from Mitchell’s Plain affiliated to the Fancy Boys gang. RIHANNA was
interviewed in Gatesville, Athlone, and refused to be recorded but is okay with note taking. She claims to be a
Fancy Girl, a female derivative of the Fancy Boys gang in Mitchell’s Plain. She explains that the male and female
components of the Fancy Boys “trap saam” (are one consolidated gang). RIHANNA claims to have three children
that are cared for by her aunt and uncle. She explains that her three children all have different fathers. RIHANNA
has been in and out of prison throughout her life. She describes juvenile detention and prison life itself as having
no difference. “It’s all the same, the juvenile section and prison is the same, anyone that tells you that it’s different
things is talking kak (shit) to you.” Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
RIHANNA posits that female gangs are prevalent in prison at that the Number gangs have some influence in the
female section as many females learnt to sabela in prison. RIHANNA explains that even though it hasn’t happened
to her she can confirm that prison staff are corrupt and that the male staffers have sex with female prisoners in
exchange for privileges.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. She explains these privileges to include access to contraband, special kitchen details,
etc. RIHANNA recalls that prison life was “good and bad…kind of…how can I say…sweet and sour nuh? You see
on the streets here in the Play (Mitchell’s Plain) life is fast and quick. You got to know who you rolling with or you
get into kak (shit) quickly. It doesn’t matter if you are a Fancy Girl and living the high life with lots of money and
a powerful gang to cover for you… ’cos once you get to prison it’s a different story. All you have is poes time
(tedious and never ending time)…and that time goes on forever. So you meet new people you maybe join a
new gang just to finish your time and get out. Who wants to live like that where someone else gets to turn your
light on or off? When you’re in prison all you want to do is have your freedom and be outside. But it’s difficult
out there. It’s difficult to be a woman out there alone with children. It’s a dangerous world. No one knows how
it is to live here in Mitchell’s Plain.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. It’s dangerous. Everyone is getik (drugged-up with methamphetamine). It’s
like a fokken zombie town. So for me it’s actually safer with the gang. So when I leave prison I am back with the
gang, I am back with my manskappe (gang fellowship)”.
RIHANNA explains that living on the Cape Flats is a matter of survival. To her, being in the gang provides her an
opportunity to uplift herself – to have money. She recalls trying to get a job once, but decided that it was insulting
to “work for such a kak little money and take such kak from people. I have dignity and I deserve some respect. I
much rather beweeg (move with and operate with) the gang. I get more respect this way as no one will dare to
fuck with me. We take no prisoners. We will fucking shoot you in your face if you mess with us. Doesn’t matter who
you are, police, council worker, priest or imam, it doesn’t matter. What we do within the gang is most important.”
RIHANNA explains that the police services are paid by the gangs. She claims that the police are in service of the
gangs and that neither the police nor security companies have power in the communities within which they (the
Fancy Boys and Fancy Girls) dominate. Her position on religious leaders is the same as she expresses contempt for
them. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. “The imam and priest is just as evil because they want to come and tell us kak when they themselves steal
from the people. We are here and we protect the people. We actually give back to these communities. At least we
as coloureds are controlling what’s happening here, ‘cos even if we don’t sell the drugs here, then the blacks will
come and do it and there’s a whole lot of new kak happening…see what they doing with this government? It was
much better for us with the whities in charge”
RIHANNA intimates that protection and racketeering is an integral part of gang operations within the Cape Flats,
more especially in Mitchell’s Plain. She confirms that her gang charges a protection tax for almost every activity. “The
taxis that run through here…we shake them down ‘cos they must pay if they want to trap (pass through) through
here. We charge even the scrap merchants if they make a lot of money. We must get money from businesses even
if they skarrel (trade for money), because we protect these businesses from the Dixie Boys or the Americans that
come here to try their luck”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
RIHANNA explains that the gang sees themselves as protectors of the community in that they function (in at least
one capacity) to deny other gangs access to business entrepreneurs within communities. She claims that the gang
facilitates prosperity in the community and claims that the gangs are more responsive to community disputes than
both the police and security companies.
RIHANNA assures that she is happy with her life as a Fancy Girl and that she sees her choices in life as having been
limited due to certain circumstances. She says that she will die a Fancy Girl.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
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Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
9. “SHIRLEY BASSEY”: 9 April 2016
“SHIRLEY BASSEY” is a 32 year old ‘coloured’ woman from Salt River linked to the Nice Time Kids. She was interviewed
in Woodstock and refused to be recorded due she said to “her gang allegiance”. Not taking is permitted.
SHIRLEY BASSEY claims to have two children aged 14 and 16. Her children are being raised by her grandmother who
lives in Ocean View. SHIRLEY BASSEY has been to Polsmoor prison twice: her first time in prison was a two year stint
where she was sentenced in a court case related to drug trafficking (she lived in a house owned by the gang boss;
her associates sold drugs from this very stronghold where she lived); her second time in prison was due to jewellery
theft with aggravated assault. She explains that she was raised by her grandmother as her mother had abandoned
her. Her mother was a drug addict. She recalls that they were very poor and that many times she would go to
sleep without having eaten. Furthermore she claims to have hated school and that she found more of a sense of
family with the Nice Time Kids who were hanging out on street corners. The gang embraced her and gave her a
sense of identity that was not “the broken version” that she felt living at home with her grandmother in dirt poor
conditions. As a Nice Time Kid she earned money and respect. She felt enriched by this experience as it gave her
a lot confidence.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
SHIRLEY BASSEY elaborates that she was addicted to tik (methamphetamine) for about eight years. She nearly
lost her children due to drugs and she sees her grandmother as a saint for taking care of her children. If her
grandmother did not agree to raise her children, “they would have been taken away into foster care by the
courts”. She admits that she nearly lost her life to drugs in that she nearly overdosed a few years ago. “I have
been clean (off drugs) for about seven years. My one child was born while I was on drugs. He is lame in the one
leg and is slow so he has to get special care. My eldest is also addicted to tik. I don’t know what to do to get her
off this tik.” Even though SHIRLEY BASSEY understands the devastating effects that drugs have on members of
her family, she is still completely in support of the gangs selling drugs within these communities. She explains
that “whoever is selling drugs here…when they leave here, someone else will come here and then take over. It
doesn’t matter as you can see man…this is part of our life here. It has been a part of our life since I was a child.
People here don’t know any better. Everyone is so poor…they live kak lives…to get high takes you away from
these battles. You feel great. I gave it up because I nearly died. I take a skyf (a drag on a cannabis cigarette) now
and then but that’s all.”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
SHIRLEY BASSEY claims to handle monies within the Nice Time Kids gang. According to her monies are accumulated
through proceeds from protection and racketeering, drug sales and distribution, prostitution, and other illegal
activities such as fencing stolen property. SHIRLEY BASSEY explains that the gang gets their drugs from Durban
and that “many people are paid to get the drugs into Cape Town safely. Oh yes, we definitely pay the police. Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers. We
have our contacts…high ranking cops that get paid and they make it so that we get the drugs here…it’s not that
difficult to smuggle the drugs in if you know the right people. Many of our customers are some famous people,
even lanies (bosses from big companies). These lanies come to us for coke (cocaine) or acid or ecstasy…we give
them and they pay our prices, they are regulars and they come here with their expensive cars and still the police
do nothing because we pay them. Sometimes the police raid because another gang maybe piemped (squealed or
told) on us and paid the police more money than we did so that the police raid us. Now the poes police will raid us
and take our drugs and there’s lots of kak to get those drugs back. So the cops work for who pays them the most…Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
what a kak gedagte (what a bad way of thinking), don’t you think?”
SHIRLEY BASSEY asserts that there is fierce rivalry between gangs for drug hotspots, that is, places where
drugs are more commonly sold. “People die in the fight for who can sell drugs where and we are sterk (strong)
here in Salt River so we don’t take kak from anyone. They will know not to try their luck here otherwise we
don’t hesitate to tchaais (to punish them) them.” Thus, as SHIRLEY BASSEY explains, the sale of drugs plays an
integral part of gang operations. SHIRLEY BASSEY claims that the gang support her and offer her a platform
of respect. According to her, she feels more fulfilled as a member of the Nice Time Kids because they are her
24
Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
“true family”. She recalls that the gang supported her even when she went to prison. She recounts that the
gang always saw to it that she always had money on her property in prison and that she was protected from
both prisoners and prison administration alike. SHIRLEY BASSEY understands that she will never leave the
gang as it is “tattooed” into her lifestyle. She has five gang related tattoos all over her body. She claims to not
have any regrets in her life.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
SHIRLEY BASSEY asserts that she has seen many acts of violence within her gang career and expects to see more as
“taking blood is part of this way of life”.
10. “WHITNEY HOUSTON”: 13 April 2016
“WHITNEY HOUSTEN” is a 30 year old ‘coloured’ woman from Kensington associated with the Wonder Kids gang.
She agreed that notes could be taken during the interview but did not want it recorded. WHITNEY HOUSTON
explains that she is a Wonder Girl, a female component of the Wonder Kids. She claims to have two children aged
three and ten years old respectively; her two children are from two different fathers. Her children were taken
away from her and put into foster care because of her gang related activities and drug abuse. She explains that
the fact that her children are not with her makes her very sad, even “depressed…and thinking about that will
make me do drugs…”Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
WHITNEY HOUSTON was adopted as a child as both her biological parents had died young. She asserts that she
was never abused as child and that she hated school – she claims to have insubordination issues as she “hated
being told what to do by the teachers… so I used to bunk (play truant) all the time…” She found the gangsters
and gang life more attractive than “the difficult life in the township”. She explains that she was sent to juvenile
detention when she was 15 years old. She spent approximately three years and five months in Pollsmoor Prison
for charges related to vehicle theft; she has her daughter’s name tattooed on her face and various other gang and
prison gang insignias tattooed over her body. She admits that she was drugged up when she had her tattoos and
thus she “didn’t feel any pain”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
WHITNEY HOUSTON asserts that many Pollsmoor prison warders would have sexual relations with certain female
prisoners. Apparently, such sexual exchange would come with a trade-off in that those prisoners would be afforded
certain privileges such as smoking and extended recreational time etc. She further details that the sex with warders
could happen in various venues such as in the hairdressing room (a facility for skills development within the prison
facility) or in the administration offices. According to WHITNEY HOUSTON, many women become denatured to
sexual love due to such prison experiences “in the same way that a prostitute cannot anymore feel love when she
has so much sex with so much men…”
WHITNEY HOUSTEN explains that her time spent in prison was both difficult and easy: “Being away from everyday
stuff like…like having your own freedom … your own right to do things, when you think about that then it is truly
difficult… because you see… you just sit there and think about your life… you know I think… but am I a dog to
be treated like this? Or am I a woman or a person… do you understand? That… for me was difficult… but then
you meet some nice friends there in prison also… many of them help you to get through your time because…Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
you see… they have been there for a long time so they can think about their time and they are more sure than you
about what they think about in prison and how they will spend of their time in prison… do you understand…?
Because without such a … how can I say… support… then maybe you will maybe go mad in your head there…
learning to work in the hairdresser and learning other things there in prison was… interesting you know… it made
my time in that place a lot nicer…”
WHITNEY HOUSTON indicates that she is affiliated to both the Wonder Girls gang and the Americans gang in the
Kensington and Factreton areas. She elaborates that as a member of the gang, she could be asked to perform
a violent act and she would willingly comply, for e.g. she was asked to stab a member of a rival gang and she
“did it easily”. She claims to have been “paid well” to perform certain violent acts such as “drive by shootings or to
25
Gangs, violence and the role of women and girls: Emerging themes and policy and programme options
stab someone”. WHITNEY HOUSTON explains that the gang will supply her and her fellow gang members with
weapons and, if necessary, “someone in the gang will show you how the weapon works…they will give you guns
and ammunition”.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
She considers herself to be a rehabilitated drug addict but admits to still doing drugs on the odd occasion, more
especially when she “is stressed out”. WHITNEY HOUSTON elucidates that she was paid in both money and drugs
for her efforts within gang operations. She claims to have been “placed on a pedestal” within the gang and that she
commands lots of respect. She does not feel that she is treated any less due to her being a female. She elaborates
that it is easy to penetrate the gang if you have street smarts, “you must know the street… the language…the
people also… if you don’t then you die…” She explains that there are many females linked to gangs as it comes with
various perks, such as acclaim, money, drugs, notoriety also provides a degree of celebrity.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
WHITNEY HOUSTON posits that even though it is easy for her to walk away from gangs, many women “are
trapped in that way of life and they can’t get out because they traded something of themselves to get into that
gangs… even if it was violence or them not being soft anymore… they are now addicted to drugs and that
violent lifestyle… it’s a fast life when you live like that… they say that you will most definitely die like that… I
have seen too many die here with me on the streets…” She explains that many women lose themselves in the
gangs because they have to give themselves sexually to some gang members. She claims to be independent
and that she joined the gangs out of her own volition. For her, the gangs provided security and fellowship that
the harsh township life failed to provide.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.
WHITNEY HOUSTON shows an apparent lack of fear when she explains her violent past. She easily explains how she
killed an ex-boyfriend – she gunned him down with his own firearm and got a “one year suspended sentence for it
because there was no evidence at the scene.” She explains that “juvenile detention and prison are the same thing
because you get treated like an animal in both places…” According to WHITNEY HOUSTON, she has witnessed and
been part of many scenarios where people died in very violent ways, e.g. “someone gets burnt to death in front of
you, or gets forced off the road with a car, or gets stabbed or shot right here next to you… that’s real violence…not
pulling hair and scratching someone like in prison.

Female gang members have long been dismissed as mere tagalongs or laughable imitators of male gang members—girls who try to play with the big boys. Only in recent decades—as the number of women in detention has grown—have researchers taken a serious look at this population and youth delinquency groups included women as a focus in their programs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Studies indicate that a large majority of female gang members are in mixed-gender gangs, with only a small fraction belonging to girl-only gangs. And according to Meda Chesney-Lind, a member of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention Girls Study Group, gangs fulfill dramatically different needs for female than for male members, and girls’ experience of gang life is in many respects quite distinct from boys’.

Chesny-Lind spoke to Mother Jones from her office at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she is a women’s studies professor.

Mother Jones:How long have female gangs and gang members been around?

Meda Chesney-Lind: As long as we’ve had gangs, we’ve had girls in gangs. They’ve always been there, and they’ve always been ignored by male researchers. The phrase we like to use is “present but invisible,” because the people who studied men in gangs tended to ignore the girls or only ask the boys about the girls. It wasn’t until some of us got into doing the research in the ‘80s that we realized we needed to ask the girls what was going on in their lives. As a result of that, we have a whole new literature that has emerged around girls in gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: About what proportion of gang members are women?

MCL: For jurisdictions with computerized databases like Los Angeles, you get a fairly conservative estimate, generally less than ten percent. But if you go out in the field and you look at some of the ethnographic research, you can find estimates that range up into the 30s. If you ask a lot of the young women, they will say that they’re either affiliated with a gang, belong to an auxiliary gang or have their own gangs. In our work in Honolulu, we’ve found it was up to 30 percent.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

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MJ: How have the numbers changed over time?

MCL: Girl involvement in gangs has pretty much tracked the overall gang problem. But there’s the gang problem, and there’s our awareness of the gang problem as a society. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, people didn’t pay a lot of attention to gangs. I think gangs still existed, but gangs had fallen out of criminological favor. When some of the gangs got involved with the drug trade, particularlythe crack cocaine trade, and the lethal violence started to flare up in the ‘80s, then there was a great deal of public attention on gangs and a great deal of concern about what was going on in these social groups. Now our attention has been directed elsewhere, but a few months ago I warned everybody that our gang problem was not getting better; I thought it was getting worse. But public attention is other places.

MJ: Why do women get involved in gangs?

MCL: Girls come to the gang for very different reasons than boys. For boys in marginalized communities, they have a gender problem, and they solve it often through gang membership. They find an ability to do masculinity in a way that reasserts their importance in a society that mostly ignores them. For girls, they’re coming out of more damaged backgrounds. Their families are often the reason they get propelled into gang membership. They will sometimes come to the gang to learn how to fight an abusive stepfather or mother’s boyfriend, for example. They live in dangerous neighborhoods, but—and this is much more important for girls—they also live in dangerous families. The girls go to the gang in order to get protection from victimization that’s occurring in their lives. And also it’s a place to be, because they’re often rejected from and rejecting their families.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

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MJ: What are some risk factors for female gang membership?

MCL: In these communities, families treat their boys and their girls differently. This is especially true in immigrant families—they expect a lot more from their daughters, who often chafe at the restrictions that the parents put on them. They might rebel, run away from home; they might be physically punished. If they’re suffering physical or sexual abuse at home, which is not all that infrequent, the gang serves as a refuge for them. (We know that sexual abuse, physical abuse, is a precursor for violence in girls.)

The gang may be a safer place than home, but it’s not without its problems. In some instances, especially in the Latino community, the boys have very traditional views of femininity even though they are gang members. The girls can be [seen] as sexually available, but not the good girl that you want to take home to your family, even by young men in the gangs. They may be sexually victimized by the boys in the gang. It also gets girls into legal trouble because a lot of the gang activities tend to be quite violent. If the girls are around, they get swept up in very serious crimes and do big time for them. That’s one of the real tragedies we see. They will be serving very long terms, so long that they’ll never be able to have children, for example.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: Are girls in gangs less violent?

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MCL: They’re less everything. They do a lot less serious offending. When you look at girls violence, if girls are acting out violently it’s usually against other girls and usually for fairly conventional reasons like, “I heard Lisa’s going out with Ian, and I’m mad at her so I’m gonna set up a fight with her.” Or she disrespected me or I heard a rumor about what she said about my weight. It’s really the kind of relational aggression we’re familiar with in girls, but they might act out violently. The victims of that will be other similarly situated girls. They’re not running rampant in the streets or through malls bashing little old ladies over the head, which is the public perception of gangs in general and girls in gangs.

One of the differences between boy gangs and girl gangs is for girls it’s much more relational and much less violent. If we socialized boys like girls, we would have a much lower crime rate in America. If you socialize people to care about each other and care about relationships, they tend to be much less violent and tend to think about the consequences of their actions more. Girls begin to have second thoughts about the violence. Studies show they feel a considerable amount of guilt about it. They feel bad later and want to apologize. This is the empathy, the concern for relationships. Violence among boys is so valorized and so encouraged that you have to do things different in violence prevention with boys than with girls.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: What are the different types of involvement girls can have in gangs?

MCL: The most dangerous kind of girl involvement with gangs is one where the girls are just sort of hanging around the gang boys or even being part of the male gang. We have some pretty horrific accounts of what happens to girls in those situations, particularly sexual assaults. [Even if] those are labeled as a way to get into the gang, it’s not a stretch to say they’re […] gang rapes. That kind of gang involvement is one where girls are the most vulnerable. But I still think the gang solves for those girls a problem of giving them identity and visibility in a society that typically ignores them. It’s a reaction to even worse situations at home, which is a horrific thing to have to say. And a kind of a sense of power—girls often feel very powerless in their lives and their families, and they kind of mimic the male violence as a way to try and get some of that male power that they see lacking in their own lives.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

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Independent gangs like the Potrero Hill Girls [in San Francisco] can even support the young women economically. That gang would go through the housing project there and ask people what they need from Nieman Marcus and various other tony stores, and shoplift on order and then bring them back and support children that way. We understand that’s theft, but that kind of economic independence and that kind of moxie, I think a lot of people can relate to.

MJ: : How are female gangs structured?

MCL: One researcher of L.A.’s Latina gangs in the ‘70s found that they functioned a lot like a Girl Scout troop. Girls came to Girl Scouting at about the same age in white communities as girls in Hispanic communities came to gangs. They had lists of rules for their members. It was very much like a club for girls. Some early gang work in the ‘50s tried to take the girl gangs and turn them into social clubs because in many ways that was already how they were functioning. Girls tended to leave the gangs at the age that girls tended to leave Girl Scouts in white communities. Of course, you don’t have a Scout leader.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

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MJ: What is the age range of women who join gangs?

MCL: They come to the gangs around age 15, but girls age out of gangs somewhat earlier than boys, often because they get pregnant. That gives them a legitimate out from gang involvement—you’ve got economic pressures of being a mom. This might propel them into petty crime, as it did with the Potrero Hill Girls, and in fact many of them shoplifted with their young babies. But it sobers you up. Some of the bravado, the craziness, la vida loca is no longer as attractive as it was when you were younger.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: Are drugs a problem in female gangs?

MCL: Drugs and alcohol are omnipresent, especially in mixed-gender gangs. What gangs really do is they mostly just hang around and drink and tell stories of past confrontations. But then the boys will launch out and respond to some imagined wrong and get in serious trouble. And then when the drug trade is involved, it becomes lethal. That’s more typical of boy gang membership—the gang becomes the employer as well as a social outlet. Men frequently get locked up, come out, try to get their lives together, can’t, and fall back into the gang because the it offers economic sources of support in the illicit economy. That’s less true of girl gangs.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

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Girls are on the edges of that environment, and that’s one of their problems. When they’re arrested with their boyfriends, often the boyfriends can trade information for reduced sentences. The girls can’t; they don’t have the information. They don’t know where the drugs came from or the names of the people up the line.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: What do you think about the media’s portrayal of women in gangs?

MCL: There’s only one thing worse than not paying attention to girls in gangs—it’s paying attention to girls in gangs. The public reaction to girls and women who engage in nontraditional behavior—the hysteria that often surrounds girls in these groups—is almost as interesting as the behavior itself. There was a time when Oprah and Geraldo and everyone in the world were doing really terrible programs on girls in gangs. The nuanced analysis of what’s going on in the lives of these girls is important: they’re still girls of color, they face enormous educational neglect, they face terrible poverty, they don’t see a great life ahead of themselves. They’re realistic, especially African-American girls, about the fact that the men in their community will not marry them. They’ll never have a conventional family to look forward to. They’re trying to negotiate a grim future for themselves.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: What are some of the most common misconceptions about female gang members?

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MCL: That they’re exactly like their male counterpoints. The media construction of them makes them look masculinized and very scary. The media will often stuff guns in their hands or bandannas over their faces and take pictures of them. That’s often positioned against stereotypical white femininity, the Lindsay Lohan kind of whiteness. Girls in gangs typically don’t carry guns, they certainly don’t brandish them the way male gang members do. That isn’t an accurate portrayal of girls in gangs at all.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: What are some possible solutions being discussed nowadays to female gang membership?

MCL: Gender-responsive programming is very important—accessing traditional girls-serving organizations and women’s organizations to provide mentoring opportunities for young women, to reach across race and class divides, to work with the Girls Scouts and YWCA; to work with women legislators to make sure there’s advocacy for girls in the justice system. If you’re doing gang peacemaking, I hope that the men–and it’s almost always men who work in these youth-serving agencies—realize that there are girls there and that they need to hire young women from those ethnic groups to work with those young women. I don’t think the men can do it. They’re often too identified with boys they’re working with, and they have some of the same attitudes. Gang research has also typically been a male domain. Our stereotype is that gang delinquency is a boy problem.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

MJ: Are there many groups doing outreach to female gang members or involved in prevention?

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MCL: Around the country, juvenile courts are seeing more girls than they ever have before as a proportion of their caseload. We’ve just topped 30 percent in terms of juvenile arrests of girls. There’s a whole national conversation about gender-responsive programming for girls. Places like Baltimore have experimented with female-only probation caseloads. Delinquency prevention and intervention programs are a little slower to pick this up because they’re so used to working with boys. Girls have historically been ignored.

ONE MORE THING
And it’s a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We’re aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don’t get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.

We want to go all in, and we’ve got seed funding to get started—but we’re looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.Girls and Gangs Assignment Papers.