Study shows an alarming rate of young inmates are sexually assaulted

The US department of Justice released a survey that suggests that about 20% of juvenile inmates experience sexual assault while doing time in juvenile detention centers and group homes. Colorlines reports:

“The survey covered by both secure juvenile detention facilities and group homes, and involved more than 8,500 boys and girls. In total, 1,720 of those surveyed reported being sexually assaulted, and some of them said that they had been violated on more than 10 occasions. There are currently roughly 70,000 young people in the country’s juvenile detention facility.”

These crimes are usually committed by  adult staff who are responsible for the inmates during incarceration. According to Joaquin Sapien at ProRepublica:

“The report gives some insight into how staff members victimize the youngsters under their care and supervision. In the majority of cases, the survey found, staff members establish a personal relationship with the inmate first by sharing details of their personal lives, sharing pictures, or giving gifts. The report indicates that one instance of abuse usually leads to more. “

This explanation reveals how most sexual assaults (across age and gender lines) occur at the hands of those that we already know. It is even more disturbing to see that this is also the case within the walls of detention centers across the country. Young people are already at a greater risk of exploitation because they do not have all of the rights granted to adults, but this reminder that the criminal justice is a breeding ground of such injustice makes me sick.

I think it is also worth reminding folks that the criminal “justice” system in the US disproportionately targets and affects people of color, undocumented, and queer people. And so it goes that upon further inspection of the survey, it is obvious that black and “non-heterosexual” inmates reported higher rates of sexual assault from other youth and staff.

How does this help create a healthy environment in which to “rehabilitate” young people within the criminal justice system? While sexual assault might represent a strong deterrent from ever reemerging within that system, we are not releasing youth that have been well taken care of or treated. What are the implications of that for our future?

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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  • John

    “While sexual assault might represent a strong deterrent from ever reemerging within that system,”

    No, no, no, a thousand times no. There is no silver lining to rape. There is no upside to rape, ever.

  • T.A.O.

    Other findings from that survey not mentioned with a word in any of the linked articles in the OP:

    8.2% of males and 2.4% of females reported sexual activity with staff

    Page 4

    Of the 1,390 youths who reported victimization by staff, 89.1% were males reporting sexual activity with female staff and 3.0% were males reporting sexual activity with both male and female staff. In comparison, males comprised 91% of adjudicated youth in the survey and female staff accounted for 44% of staff in the sampled facilities.

    Page 5

  • Steve

    “”An estimated 92.4% of all youth who reported staff sexual misconduct said they were victimized by female facility staff.””

    • John

      The numbers are similar when looking at adult prisons.

      Page 5

      “About 2.1% of prison inmates and 1.5% of jail inmates reported an incident involving another inmate.”

      “About 2.8% of prison inmates and 2.0% of jail inmates reported having had sex or sexual contact with staff.”

      “Sexual activity with facility staff was reported by 2.9% of male prisoners and 2.1% of male jail inmates, compared to 2.1% of female prisoners and 1.5% of female jail inmates”

      “Most victims of staff sexual misconduct were males; most perpetrators were females. Among male victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% of those in prison and 64% of
      those in jails reported sexual activity with female staff. An additional 16% of prison inmates and 18% of jail inmates reported sexual activity with both female and male staff.”

      It’s not just that there are more male inmates than female. Male inmates are victimized by female staff at a rate 25% higher than female inmates are victimized by male staff in proportion to their numbers. I don’t believe that women are by nature more sexually predatory than men although there is a possibility that sexually predatory women could be drawn to certain jobs where men and boys can be more easily victimized. There could be a higher percentage of sexually predatory women among prison staff than would be found within society.

      I think a simple solution is to extend the limitations on cross gender access placed on male staff to female staff. That would probably result in a BFOQ being sex and would result in fewer opportunities for women. I think that’s why many feminist remain silent on this. It’s disheartening that feminists would recognize rape as one of the most terrible things that could happen to someone yet rank male rape as inconsequential as compared to female economic opportunity.

      When I rejected feminism for the MRM, it was mostly because of the way that feminists viewed male rape especially by females. Keep this in mind when you read ridiculous articles about how men concerned with men should be feminists and there is no need for an MRM. There wouldn’t be an MRM if feminists took injustices against men as seriously as they claim to.