In 2009, a car with four gang members pulled alongside two men in another vehicle at a red light. According to the Chicago Tribune, a male gang member pulled out a gun and fired into the men’s vehicle, causing serious injury in one and a fatal wound in the other. Law enforcement located the other three passengers in the gang member’s vehicle. All three were female gang members.
Why women get involved
According to the National Gang Center, roughly one-third of all adolescents in criminal gangs in Minnesota and across the country are female. Until the last decade, female membership in gangs has been largely overlooked. In many cases, women tend to join the groups for similar reasons to their male counterparts. Common reasons for females joining gangs include the following:
- Financial opportunity – these women often struggle in school, and it is not uncommon for them to simply drop out.
- Having a dysfunctional family – women will join a gang because they feel a sense of belonging, and it provides them with a feeling of self-worth; many are victimized by their real families through physical and sexual abuse.
- Gaining the identity and status that comes with being a gang member – women seek social interaction and gang life is often glorified to them.
- Receiving the gang’s protection from violence
Unlike males, however, the American Correctional Association points out that some females join gangs because they have a loved one involved or they are even looking to meet a significant other. The social aspect of a gang can be a strong temptation for women. A woman with strong ties to a gang is more likely to get involved with the group, especially if she has a love interest who participates.
Used by gangs
According to The Huffington Post, one woman was forced to have sex with an HIV-positive gang member in order to join the group, an initiation known as “sexed in.” In other instances, women may be forced to have sex with several men within a single night if they want to join a gang. Rather than empowering women, these sorts of initiations turn them into commodities and it isn’t uncommon for these women to be used as prostitutes or to provide sexual favors to gang members.
When they aren’t used as sexual tools by gangs, women are often required to transport drugs or even sell drugs for the gang, which can leave them facing drug charges. Furthermore, reports indicate that women in gangs face violence from members within their own gang as well as violence from rival gangs. Recently, some gangs have begun using rape as a form of revenge on females in another gang.
For women caught in this type of world, there is often little escape. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help these women rebuild a new life outside the gang.