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Girls' fights now exceed boys' scuffles

While the County of San Diego has linked adolescent violence to underage drinking in a recent survey, there are several other elements, including social pressures, jealousy and pride that cause teenage girls to fight.

Fallbrook High School assistant principal Adam Dawson believes that there are several elements as to why a girl may resort to violence.

“It may be a combination of illicit drug use, family issues, or simply looking for a way to be connected,” said Dawson. “It can also be social pressure. This is why it is so important to have solid, healthy friends.”

According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about one in four girls between 12 and 17 years of age had been the perpetrator of or had participated in a violent act at school or work in the past year. Shockingly, this pushes the percentage of girls involved in violent behavior to 26.7 percent, slightly higher than boys involved with violent behavior, which is 25.4 percent.

The survey also revealed that adolescent females that engaged in a violent behavior were more likely to have been binge drinking in the past month.

In spite of this revelation, high school-age girls have other reasons for becoming violent.

“Some girls are just dumb,” said Torrey,* a 15-year-old high school student. “They think that they are guys and want to fight like them. I knew this one girl who thought she could fight like a boy, and ended up getting into a fight with them. She was beaten with a stick.”

Locally, statistics from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) revealed 164 adolescents who were arrested in 2008 were interviewed; 25 percent of those were girls under 17 years of age. The SANDAG report also revealed that a higher percentage of girls were arrested for violent behavior compared to boys; 37 percent versus 31 percent.

“Some girls like to be known as fighters, and the just don’t care,” said Ellie,* a high school freshman. “My cousin would punch and push me. She was proud of . She isn’t even afraid of going to court or being sent to juvenile hall. All she says is that she’ll get out and beat [the person she was fighting with] up again. They do it to just be bullies.”

“Sometimes it’s because of a boy,” said Lauren,* a high school sophomore. “It’s one of the dumbest reasons to get into a fight, but if a guy flirts with another girl, his girlfriend will start something. A lot of it is drama, like a girl thinks someone looks at her weird or talks bad about her. They mad-dog each other and try to start something. They start yelling at each other to watch their backs.”

While in the past, girls and boys exhibited different rates of violence, in the last few years, arrests for girls have increased more rapidly than arrests for boys, with girls accounting for about 30 percent of all arrests nationwide.

“These girls like doing it where people can see it, too,” said Lauren.* “Last week at Fallbrook High School, a fight broke out in the bowl [the open part of the high school campus] at lunch, so everyone could see the fight.”

According to the high school girls, the fights between teenage girls are not simply a few pushes and slaps.

“Some girls punch, slap and pull hair,” said Tara,* a junior who had been in a fight several years ago. “Personally, I punch, but that’s just me. I know of a girl who got a chunk of hair pulled out in a fight, and another girl who bit someone in a fight.”

According to Sheriff’s sergeant Amy Brown, the Fallbrook substation doesn’t get many calls of teenage girl violence. However, when they do occur, Sheriff’s deputies investigate the incident to find the individual at fault, and charge them with misdemeanor battery. If there is significant bodily harm, the individual who began the fight is charged with felony battery.

Dawson believes that desensitization to violence places a major role.

“It’s the norm; they see it on TV, at home and online,” he said. “Every high school is battling this, and have strict policies based on the California educational code.”

“We often associate acts of teenage violence with boys; however, the problem is also pervasive among girls,” said Nick Macchione, director of San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency. “It’s extremely important to remind girls, and boys, that there are more constructive ways of handling stress and anger. Violence is never the answer.”

*The last names of the teenage girls interviewed have been withheld.

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