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Nearly 10% of Incarcerated Youth Were Sexually Victimized in 2012

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An estimated 9.5% of youngsters in state juvenile facilities and state-contract institutions (1,720 kids and teens nationwide) reported one or more incidents of sexual victimization in 2012, according to a recent survey. Facility staff were involved in 1,390 cases (7.7%), while another youth was involved in 450 cases (2.5%).

Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina had the highest rate of incarcerated youth sexual victimization (more than 15%), while Massachusetts, New York, Delaware and D.C. had no reported cases. Males (8.2%) were more likely than females (2.8%) reporting sex with facilities staff, and more than 90% of all youngsters reporting sexual misconduct were victimized by female staff.

Nearly 18% of youth sexually assaulted by other young inmates reported being injured in the incident, versus 6% victimized by staff. Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth had a significantly higher rate of victimization by other youths (10.3%) than heterosexuals (1.5%). Force was threatened in 68% of youth-youth incidents, versus 37% in staff-youth cases. The survey was mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PRAE).

According to the survey, authored by Allen Beck, David Cantor and Tim Smith, the “Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012, conducted with 8,707 youths between February and September 2012:

Based on comparable state juvenile facilities surveyed in 2008–09 and 2012, the overall rate of sexual victimization dropped from 12.6% to 9.9%. The decline was linked to a drop in staff sexual misconduct with force (from 4.5% of youth in to 3.6%) and a drop in staff sexual misconduct without force (from 6.7%to 5.1%).

Ohio was the worst state, with an estimated one-fifth of juveniles reported being sexually victimized at least once in the previous year. Three of the state’s four juvenile correctional facilities were among the 13 facilities nationwide having the highest rates of assaults. For example, the Circleville facility had the second highest rate of assaults among all the facilities studied (30%). Fully 90% of those assaults involved staff sexual misconduct. Half of that sexual activity was forced or coerced.

According to the Chicago News:

Illinois ranked among the four worst states for reported rates of sexual victimization in juvenile detention facilities. The federal report points to a system failure within the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice that must be addressed at every level, from administration to line staff. Youth must have a safe and reliable way of reporting sexual victimization and getting help.

Among other things, PREA requires states to designate an entity, which is operationally independent from the juvenile justice agency’s chain of command, to receive youths’ reports of sexual victimization to ensure that juveniles can bring complaints without fear of retaliation.

Tennessee has a higher rate (13%) of reported sexual assaults on imprisoned minors than the U.S., and there is good news and bad news regarding different facilities. The John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville had the highest rate of estimated sexual victimization in 2012, at 19.5%, up from 16.3% in 2010. On the other hand, the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center had one of the highest rates in the county, three years ago, at 26%. But between the two studies, Woodland Hills’ rate dropped to 6.7% in 2012.

The survey results come just two months before the federal government is scheduled to start enforcing new sexual-assault-prevention standards at the its detention facilities. These include providing inmates access to crisis hotlines, training medical examiners to identify abuse and doing audits every three years.

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