In the wake of a series of articles about the severity of sexual abuse in prisons, the organization Just Detention International (formerly Stop Prison Rape) has a great new campaign to raise awareness about the extent to which we normalize prison sexual assault. JDI released a report earlier this month with some pretty horrifying statistics: “12.1 percent or almost one in eight of the detained youth who participated in the survey reported sexual abuse at their current facility during the previous year.”
The study goes on to add that “on any given day, there are approximately 93,000 youth confined in juvenile facilities, more than half of whom are 16 or younger.” 80 percent of the abuse was perpetrated by a member of the facility’s staff. Victimized youth “usually endured repeated sexual abuse, often more than ten times, and frequently by multiple perpetrators.”
This information is not widely known, and it’s rarely taken seriously. But JDI’s new campaign highlights in a very real way the extent to which we dehumanize the victims of sexual assault in prisons. Take a look at this young woman, and then this next photo.
Amanda Hess has the rest of the campaign, which focuses on prisoners’ sexual health and our tendency to joke about sexual assault, on her Washington City Paper blog – take a look at it here. I have to say, I love this campaign as much as everyone else who’s been writing about it this morning.
But I also agree with Amanda that this, sadly, is a bigger problem than just ignoring sexual assault in prisons. There are too many people who think that jokes about rape (whether they’re of the homophobic or just sexist variety) are totally acceptable, and we have too much proof that people sometimes wouldn’t help any young woman if she were being raped, regardless of whether she was in a prison uniform.
I’m glad Just Detention International is doing this great work, but we can’t forget that there’s far more we can be doing to combat rape culture – and that acknowledging this form is crucial, but only a small part of the picture.
Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe's Flickr Photostream.