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9 Out of 10 Sex Abuse Victims in Prisons Are Males Abused By Female Staffers

And other shocking facts about America's criminal justice sex assault epidemic.

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There’s a rising female population among the staffs in juvenile settings. What accounts for that? What challenges does that present?

It’s not that men aren’t qualified; it’s that they often can’t meet the requirements, which require a certain degree of education, no past criminal record, and passing a drug test. Women are more likely to be able to do that.

In New York, Rikers Island is majority female staff, 75 percent of them are African American. And that’s very common in cities.

One of the things that people are still trying to understand is what the harm can be to a boy who has experience of abuse with an older woman in these facilities. What’s the current body of scholarship on female-on-male abuse?

The short of it is that anytime a wrong has happened, you need somebody to acknowledge that something wrong has happened. Just the fact that people can’t wrap their head around the fact that this was something that happened to you that should not have happened to you, that it’s not okay.

One of the biggest harms is that these guys are victims, but they don’t even get a chance to name their victimhood because there is such a huge culture of masculinity, it would be like, why are you complaining about that?

If nobody even recognizes that that’s a problem then there’s not going to be any services, or any education, or any intervention to address it. And because people don’t understand that, then what happens is it deepens the harm.

And as far as the long-term consequences?

Anger, violent behavior, depression, the same thing that happens to all victims, post-traumatic stress, hostility and aggression toward women, all of that is in the literature. Many of them were reared by women, who maybe didn’t protect them, so it solidifies this perception that women are not there for them.

And talk about the consequences for women who actually have been caught violating young boys. How often are you seeing prosecutions? How often are you seeing penalties levied against female abusers of boys?

Well, we’ve been studying this, and this whole problem of sanctions has been there from the beginning. We’ve found about 300 cases total of female-on-male abuse – cases that were reported in the media between 1990 and 2013. About 30 of the cases were related to juveniles. And if I remember correctly, of those 30, there were only seven or nine actual convictions.

But what we’re looking at is how the media characterized what happened, were they characterized as relationships? And did that characterization have an impact on the prosecution or the sanction? I think that’s a huge problem, because the likelihood of there being a sanction is really related to the importance that society places on harm to that victim.

For the most part these women pleaded guilty to things that wouldn’t lead you to believe that this person had any kind of sexual relationship with a youth, so they didn’t even have to register as a sex offender. And more often than not there is nothing about their behavior that would’ve led somebody else in a custodial setting not to hire them again.

And these are just the rare cases where there was some visibility in the media. When you talk about what happens at the facility level, and there’s no coverage, the consequences consist of a termination or a resignation. And what happens is people resign and when they resign, you don’t have to say anything. That means they can easily be hired somewhere else.

 
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