Violence by young girls 'intensifying'

22:49, May 30 2012
Dr Donna Swift
SEEKING SOLUTIONS: Dr Donna Swift spoke in New Plymouth yesterday about ways to reduce violence and anti-social behaviour in young women.

Teenage girls are committing more serious crimes than ever before and from a younger age, says Dr Donna Swift.

At a seminar yesterday Dr Swift, a Nelson-based social anthropologist, spoke to more than 100 Taranaki professionals about violence and anti-social behaviour in young women.

Dr Swift is the author of a two-year research project, The Girls' Project, which investigated violent and anti-social young women in Tasman region.

A range of professionals attended yesterday's seminar, hosted by the Taranaki Soroptimist International, including police officers, social workers and teachers.

Currently in New Zealand one third of offenders under the age of 17 were girls, Dr Swift said.

Figures showed that over time the age of girls offending was getting younger and the crimes were getting more serious, she said.


"The type of violence is actually intensifying," Dr Swift said.

Historically the focus in New Zealand had been on trying to reduce offending with young males but now an concerted effort needed to be placed on reducing violence amongst young females.

The key to this was focusing on a prevention of violence rather than a cure, she said.

New Zealand was lagging behind North America and Europe when it came to curbing young female offending but because New Zealand was a small population there was still time to turn things around, she said.

Bullying amongst young girls was often more psychologically damaging rather than physical, she said.

Teaching girls to walk away from conflict to maintain their dignity was an important trait which needed to be reinforced, she said.

Technology-based aggression was also a problem facing many young girls and parents needed to be aware of what their children were involved with on the internet and their phones, she said.

"There's some really big lessons to be taught to our girls about safety."

Sexual and racial harassment was another common theme Dr Swift had encountered in her research, she said.

"Our girls in the playground are putting up with comments we wouldn't put up with as adults."

Racism was a particularly damaging form of discrimination, she said.

"We have to acknowledge that New Zealand has very strong element of racial harassment.

"We have laws that say that can't happen."

Dr Swift held a second meeting at the Devon Hotel last night.

Taranaki Daily News