I’ve spent my career working with adolescent trauma survivors and providing support services to their families. I saw first hand, during my time as a clinician at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and then in private practice, the long-term effects of trauma on not only young girls, but on their immediate and extended family, as well.
The devastating ripple effect an experience had on girls’ academic performance and attendance, her ability to function and perform day-to-day tasks, the emotional distress for their parents and siblings, the financial cost for medical and psychological health care have the ability to stunt her natural development.
Time and time again, I witnessed the difficulty families faced trying to find age appropriate, gender specific, accessible and effective therapeutic programs, resources and information to meet the very specific needs of girls.
And in 2007, to meet the needs of Cambridge and greater Boston area girls and families, Title IX Girls was born. Our principal educational program, Whole Girl Workout got the ball rolling. A safe place for girls to learn how to use words and not violence to get their needs met, determine safe and unsafe situations, get support and avoid isolation, understand emotions and cope, respond and not act impulsively. Naturally, women would coach girls ages 9 to 15, families would have access to educational information, resources and referrals for adjunct psychological services and scholarships available to girls who receive free lunch at school.
What’s next? We’ll continue to evaluate the program by collecting and analyzing data to share the collective voice of girls. Over time we will expand to additional cities and towns to reach more girls. The voice of girls will educate families and communities—creating a greater understanding of the unique needs of developing girls. And one day, we’ll have a hand in shaping public policy on a systemic level.
There is still plenty of work to do and room for everyone to join us.