Photo of Rebecca Burney

Rebecca Burney

  • Hosted by Rights4Girls
  • Sponsored by PepsiCo, Inc.
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Georgetown University Law Center
  • Issue area Women's Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Rebecca developed replicable strategies to dismantle the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline through policy advocacy, trainings, education, collaboration with local stakeholders, and engagement of girls in DC trapped in a cycle of victimization.

For girls, sexual abuse is one of the primary predictors of entry into the juvenile system due to the criminalization of their reaction to trauma. The most common coping mechanisms for abuse—running away, substance abuse, and truancy—are also the most common crimes for which girls are arrested. When girls are released into the community with their trauma untreated, their coping behaviors resume, they are arrested again, experience further traumatization and disconnection from their community, have more serious system involvement, and the cycle of victimization continues. This is the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline (“Pipeline”). While there has been national policy conversation about the plight of girls involved in the juvenile justice system and the need to develop strategies to dismantle the Pipeline, no concrete steps to protect girls from this cycle have been made on a local level and more collaboration is needed across systems, service providers, and communities.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Rebecca has:

  • Co-created the LOUD Brown Girls, later renamed Life of Girls, workshop series to empower girls who had touched the juvenile justice system and spearheaded all of Rights4Girls youth engagement work
  • Educated over 1361 allies, partners, and service providers about the Pipeline through workshops, panels, presentations, and webinars
  • Served as lead faculty for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) judicial institute, where she trained judges on domestic child sex trafficking
  • Served as one of the lead editors of the “I am the Voice” publication which uplifts the visual and written work of girls in the juvenile justice system.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Rebecca plans to continue her work at Rights4Girls as a Staff Attorney and build upon the project she started during her fellowship to engage vulnerable youth and empower them to be powerful advocates for change. She also plans to continue her work training judges and service providers about the unique needs of girls in the juvenile justice system.


Girls in Justice System Need to Express Themselves; We Need to Hear Them

Powerless Girls in the Most Powerful City in the World: A Project to Disrupt the Abuse to Prison Pipeline

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Natalie Nanasi

Host: Tahirih Justice Center

Sponsor: Arnold & Porter LLP