Gothenburg girl's club tackles teenage fighting
Violence between young girls is on the rise in Europe and a new European Union funded project across seven countries is looking for a solution the problem.
Sweden is represented by an after school club for teenage girls in Gothenburg.
“It felt like I was forced to fight. They jumped on me and if I didn’t fight back I would have been a nerd,” Caroline a former student from Angered, a Gothenburg suburb, tells Swedish Radio.
She says she gave as good as she got - If someone punched her she punched them back - and she kicked them and pulled their hair.”
Caroline is now part of a reference group of young girls sharing experiences of how they’ve handled violent encounters in their neighborhood.
They explain how they prepare themselves in the morning for fights during the day – avoiding earrings that could be ripped off and fixing their hair and clothes to limit the chances of getting grabbed and injured in a scrap.
“They have to plan for it because they know it can happen – they never know when girls their at odds with are going to show up,” says Eva Barron, a social worker at the GUTS after school club in Angered.
She is leading the project in Sweden and says that people working with young girls need to get better at spotting the signs that trouble is brewing.
“We have to get better at anticipating things and being able to spot when things are starting to go wrong for them,” she says.
But she adds it's not easy to do.
“It’s hard to know what the signs are that things are going really bad – self harm or attacking other people, she says.
“You can go right through your teens without anyone even noticing the scars on your arms.”
Caroline says she never needed any help but many of the girls she fought with were felt they had nothing to lose.
“They maybe had problems at school, at home or outside the home. And they didn’t always have the words to express it,” she says.
“But they still wanted to be someone through fighting. They felt like the teachers knew that they were already a lost case.”
An international conference on violent girls will be held in Gothenburg and within two years the project plans to create new methods for helping girls with aggression problems.