Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More truths about twelve-year-old girls

Last month, (September)  I wrote a blog entitled The truth about twelve-year-old-girls which highlighted girls of twelve in the news from around the world. That blog was sparked by the following comment left on my website.

“At twelve girls are still children. They act like children, talk like children and think like children. And they are helpless like children. You grossly misrepresent the abilities of twelve year old girls, and portray them as older than their years. It is stories such as yours that destroy childhood as a time of innocence. No twelve year old should have to think about this stuff.” – a comment left by Marta on the Your Story page of my website.
This commenter may think girls of twelve are helpless children, but judging by the news, the world does not. 
“Girls Rule,” a pair of twelve year old girls took umbrage at the above comment and contacted me through my website. Their big argument with me was that my book, This Bird Flew Away, is not just suitable for women eighteen and over, but is just as suitable for girls like them. They wrote the following:
"We loved your blog The Truth About Twelve Year Old Girls. We are not 'children' and we have plenty of abilities… My mom and I talked about the rape scene, and I wanted to tell you that you did a great job of explaining her feelings without giving a lot of detail. So you know, it is a really good story for younger girls too. Bria was so cool, so strong and honest. I felt like she was how I'd like to be. We girls can and do understand these things. I don't think there is anyone my age that doesn't know about sex and rape and what can happen in the world. Would you write some more about girls of 12 or 13 in the news? We, I mean my friend and me really liked that." – the first comment left by “Girls Rule” on the Your Story page of my website, shown here to the right. The are aged 12 and 13 (barely.)

The first question to fly off my fingers – after "How did you get a copy of my manuscript?" – was "Does your mother know you’re writing to me?" She did: she was one of my advance readers.

“I would suggest that any mother of an adolescent girl share this book. Not only did my daughter completely relate to Bria, her adventures and her trials, but the rape scene was so well written and showed us the fear, pain and confusion of the poor girl, it gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss rape, the dangers we face and all the attendant issues. For this I thank you" -- mother of one of "Girls Rule"

And that’s how it began, my roller coaster ride with “Girls Rule", and a guided exploration of the world of the 21st century girl.

Even though I’m getting on in years – I can see sixty without squinting – unlike most 'mature' adults, I’ve never had a blind spot when it came to twelve-year-old girls: who they are and what they are capable of. I don't see them as young children, nor quite as young women.Twelve is never land.
The term 'girl' no longer seems adequate -- yet they are not adolescents. Some seem to be twelve-going-on-six, and others twelve-going-on-thirty. And even more disturbing, we can see all ages in between in the same girl in the space of half an hour. One thing is sure: they are complicated.

No, I never look at a girl of twelve and see 'just a kid.'

Thirty years of child protection work can do that. I've seen girls at their most vulnerable, and at their most admirable – seriously. Twelve appears to be a risky age. I’d say close to half the girls I came into professional contact with over the years were first victimized at the age of twelve. 

Why is that?

Is it that particular stage of metamorphosis common to many girls of twelve, that budding into womanhood, the incipient curves, the promise of what is to come… the allure of the girl/woman? Is that it? Having escaped until puberty from the attentions of those who prey on children, the girls now seem to be at risk from those that like a touch of womanliness in their young prey. So it seems…

77% of all rape victims are under the age of eighteen. According to National Victim Services; of which 33% are between 13 - 18, 30% are aged 11 or 12 and 17% are under age 10. 14% of victims are older than 18 but under 30. Only 6% of victims are over 30.

So, if there were 90,427 reported rapes in the U.S. in 2007, that would mean 30% or 30,142 girls of 11 or 12 years of age were raped --- or would it? Law enforcement estimates only 1 in 6 rapes are reported overall, and the rate of reporting drops the younger the victims. 

We seem to have a terrible blind spot when it comes to this age group of girls. We have some strange need to see them as innocent little girls, and we do our best to keep them as we want them to be... and fail. Instead of preparing our girls to deal with the world we've made for them, we extend our own denial over them -- and leave them defenseless.

I think 12 year old girls are possibly the highest-at-risk group of females out there.

I felt so strongly about these truths, I wrote a full length article about the reality of twelve-year-old girls. (What you've read here is the introduction.) And "Girls Rule" helped me.

I challenged them to go research the news, the net, magazines (both paper and online) and come back to me with three stories they though were important to girls of their age group.

They did, and I was surprised. Why don't you come and read the full length article, and see what these two twelve-year-old girls have come up with. I guarantee you, you will walk away with much food for thought.
For the whole article:

Sincerely Yours,


Thought for today: 
"The difference between a smart person and a wise person is that a smart person knows what to say and a wise person knows whether or not to say it." -- Quote found on the wall of a recreation center office in Berkeley, California and later attributed to Olivia, a twelve year old girl. (2/12/02).

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