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

Develop replicable strategies to dismantle the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline through policy advocacy, trainings, education, collaboration with local stakeholders, and engagement of girls in D.C., who are 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.

Highlights to Date

In the first year, Rebecca has:

  • Co-created the LOUD Brown Girls workshop series to empower girls who have touched the juvenile justice system;
  • Taught over 245 youth about advocacy skills, gender violence, and the Pipeline through a variety of workshops and presentations;
  • Delivered a keynote address at Old Dominion University;
  • Educated over 309 people about the Pipeline through workshops, panels, presentations, and webinars; and
  • Received the “Leading Together Award” from Black Swan Academy for all of the work Rights4Girls has done in the D.C. Community.

What’s Next

In the next year, Rebecca plans to:

  • Expand survivor advocacy workshops for girls in DC who have touched the juvenile justice system, experienced gender violence, or are at risk of involvement in the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline;
  • Train stakeholders such as judges, prosecutors, and defenders on the existence of the Pipeline and prevention strategies;
  • Identify policy and legislative advocacy opportunities to dismantle the Pipeline and help develop a community education strategy around the identified issue areas and policy recommendations; and
  • Continue to convene stakeholders, collect data, and draft second report on girls in DC’s 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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