Much of what is written about women in gangs portrays them as victims.
A report by the Centre for Social Justice earlier this year focused on girls being trapped in gangs and living “desperate lives”, where rape is considered normal. Researchers said female members, some as young as 10, are being pressured into having sex with boys to initiate them into gangs.
The think tank warned that “too little” is being done to change the exploitation of girls and young women in gangs, despite the launch of a Home Office strategy three years ago. “The Government was right in 2011 to identify that authorities did not know enough about girls and young women associated with gangs. Yet three years later too little progress has been made,” the report said.
Some three years later, not only are we still in the dark about women’s involvement in gangs, we still tend to see girls and young women as ‘victims only’.
There is no denying that thousands of women are exploited within gangs. It is also far less likely for women to be within positions of power in gangs.
And yet there is growing evidence – and acknowledgement from within the voluntary and third sector – that girls can be just as powerful as boys in gangs.