Miller’s community to stabilize allowing for the development of

Miller’s recommendations attempt to reverse the larger
structural issues that foster disadvantage and isolation in poor communities.
Putting the complex problem in simple terms, reducing the structural causes of
disadvantage should cause the community to stabilize allowing for the
development of cultural norms where violence, especially against women, is not
accepted. Ultimately this should reduce the victimization of women in these

An interesting part of the interviews in Getting Played were potential solutions
offered by the interviewees. Miller (2008) utilized their input to formulate the
following recommendations: implement government policies that foster stability
and environmental improvements in neighborhoods, stable community organizations
that provide structure and supervision, community policing, a positive
educational environment, develop positive relationships with adults in the
community, empower girls to bond and support each other, and reverse the
perspective of street masculinity. Throughout the recommendations there is an
underlying theme of accountability between government institutions, community
organizations, the community, and individuals.

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This lack of positive, reinforcing bonds between community
members and social networks decreases the livability of the neighborhood. Making
a neighborhood more livable could reduce residential instability which may foster
more protective social bonds (Miller, 2008). This provides the foundation for
change to reduce the violence against girls that results in self-imposed social
isolation. The recommendations for reducing violence against girls in Getting Played are heavily tilted toward
reversing the precursors to social isolation and social disorganization
identified by Sampson and Wilson. This perspective offers an alternative to
other common explanations of crime such as individual or economic motivations.

Traditionally, research on race and crime has focused on
individual offenders. Sampson and Wilson (2000) found concentrated poverty
coupled with family disruption and residential instability lead to a community
culture that lack informal social controls and are more tolerant of criminal
behavior. A key component of Sampson and Wilson’s perspective is the effect of
public policies that were intended to help the poor but, exacerbated the
problems instead. Inner city neighborhoods have changed over time in response
to macro level developments. Many cities have shifted from an industrial
economy to a service based economy, wages have polarized, middle and upper
class African Americans have migrated out, and urban poor have been
concentrated in multi-unit housing projects (Sampson & Wilson, 2000). The
removal of economically and socially stable African Americans weakened the
community bonds.

Collective Efficacy of the Community

Miller (2008) identified four major strategies girls employed
to minimize victimization, avoiding public spaces, especially at night, relying
on others for protection, utilizing networks of friends and family for protection
or retaliation post-victimization, and becoming street smart. These strategies are
centered around the girls who employ them. They make conscience choices to avoid
the people and places that could cause them harm. Even these strategies come with
risks. At an individual level, girls’ self-isolation and reliance on people they
know may actually expose them to offenders since they are more likely to be victimized
by those they know (Miller, 2008). Additionally, the strategies may contribute to
residential instability and diminish community formation by removing girls from
participating public life in a meaningful manner.  

The causal factors
that increase the likelihood of victimization of girls in disadvantaged
neighborhoods are varied. From a macro level perspective disadvantaged
neighborhoods have poor environmental conditions, limited collective efficacy,
high rates of general violence, a distrust of outsiders, limited community
intervention, and experience unresponsive policing (Miller, 2008). Couple this with
the male dominated public spaces and the gendered inequality, masculine street culture
that girls need to navigate daily it is easy to understand how susceptible to victimization
girls can be.

Girls experienced sexual coercion and violence in their
neighborhoods. Their victimization in this context was varied. Girls were
exposed to groups of men and boys, potential offenders, who congregated in
public spaces unsupervised but, were also victimized by “friends” who utilized
unsupervised time with girls, often with drug and alcohol use, to engage in
sexual coercion or sexual violence (Miller, 2008).  Girls involved in relationships were not
immune from sexual and physical violence. Dating violence was frequently not
limited to male on female violence but, included female on male violence.
Miller (2008) found this violence was subject to gender inequalities, boys used
it as an extension of their masculinity, while girls’ violence was viewed as an
emotional response to boys’ masculinity.

The types of risks girls faced could be categorized as
neighborhood violence, school sexual harassment, sexual coercion and violence,
and relationship violence. It is important to recognize the influence living in
a disadvantaged neighborhood had on victimization. Disadvantaged neighborhoods
were characterized by a lack of services, deterioration, drug dealing, gangs,
and acts of violence against women in male dominated public spaces (Miller,
2008). This provides the context for interactions between boys and girls in
both public and private settings. The sexual harassment experienced by girls in
school was frequently addressed by the girls themselves in an aggressive manner
since boys dismissed their actions as “play” and intervention by authority
figures were often unreliable and indifferent (Miller, 2008). The community
norms of the neighborhood would be expected to transfer to the school community
in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Risks, Causal Factors, and Strategies

Jody Miller’s book, Getting
Played, provided an examination of African American, adolescent boys and girls
in disadvantaged St. Louis neighborhoods. Miller (2008) acknowledged her small
sample of interviewees “all had participated in a lifetime of delinquency” and
about half qualified as “serious, violent or chronic offenders” (p. 10).
Nevertheless, race, gender, and neighborhood combined to create the culture and
situations where victimization could occur. Often friends and family
perpetrated the victimization of African America girls, it occurred in public
spaces without intervention from bystanders, gendered stereotypes or
victim-blaming justified it, and it caused girls to become self-reliant on
avoidance strategies (Miller, 2008). The strategies did not address the
underlying causes and served to instead isolate girls from participation in