Voter Apathy: How It Puts the Future of Girls At Risk

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of Her Campus FSU.

The beginning of the year marks the beginning of the legislative session. Unlike the majority of other states, Florida’s legislature is part-time, only meeting during the beginning of the year. During this time, the state budget is created, laws are changed, relationships are forged, and millions of lives are affected by the outcomes. These next couples of months are incredibly significant for all Collegiettes, and not just Political Science majors!

Believe it or not, we all have a voice in the legislative process. Yet, an increasing amount of our college-age colleagues are becoming increasingly apathetic toward civics. A recent study by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute shows that college students are becoming increasingly liberal, yet less politically active. Surveys show that an increasing number of college students are leaning towards support of social issues like marijuana legalization, gay marriage, social health and welfare, and immigration reform. But this enthusiasm means nothing if intelligent and motivated young people don’t care about civics.

This trend of apathy spells disaster for future generations of prospective Collegiettes and all young women. Let's look at some facts about at-risk girls in Florida that you might not know about:

• Close to 28 percent of girls suffer from some form of mental illness.

• Of girls aged 12 to 17, almost 22 percent reported alcohol as their primary substance of abuse — twice the percentage of their male counterparts. Along with that, 70 percent of female substance abusers in that age range had histories of sexual abuse compared to only 12 percent for boys.

• Educational failure, especially during their middle school years, is the most statistically significant risk factor for girls’ future involvement in the delinquency system.

• In disproportionate numbers, girls who age out of the foster care system rely on mental health, sub­stance abuse, and homeless services. Across the United States, within two years of aging out, two to three of every 10 girls are incarcerated. 

• For girls, entrance into foster care generally involves victimization. Nationally, the victimization rate for girls was slightly higher at 9.5 per 1,000 in the population than boys at 8.7 per 1,000. Especially troubling is that girls continue to be victimized after they age out of the system.

• According to recent studies from several child welfare agencies, 50 to 97 percent of identified sex trafficking victims had previous interactions with the child welfare system.

The majority of issues that plague Florida’s girls are systemic issues that can be fixed with proper legislation and attention that is far past due from elected officials who listen when you speak up. Florida desperately needs to focus on direct, community-based gender-specific services for both at-risk girls and girls who need support to go to college, start a family, and be proactive in their communities.

I’m sure we have all seen the videos about why a girl’s education is critical to a productive society and that we all know about how a well-supported girl can change society for the best. In closing, it’s up to all of us to watch out for the next generation of girls. The legislature is in session, and behind closed doors there is ongoing battles being fought by special interests over our future.

Be sure to pay attention to what’s going on. Here’s what you can do:

• Sign up to get action alerts from politically active organizations on and off campus.

• Call your legislator in support or opposition of girl-specific issues.

• Vote for your local representative and senator, not just in the presidential election.