Prisoner Rape is Not a Joke
October 2, 2009 -
Flippant attitudes about sexual abuse in detention are one of the major obstacles to ending this type of violence. Despite important progress made in recent years to end the rape of inmates, such assaults still tend to be trivialized and laughed about in pop culture.
The latest example has come from one of the members of the band Alice in Chains, who last week compared the leaking of the group's new album to prisoner rape. Describing how it felt to learn that the band's new songs were circulating on the web weeks before the album was due to be released, drummer Sean Kinney said in a radio interview:
"It's like going to prison - you know you're gonna get raped, but you're not ready for it. You think you're all prepared for it, but you're not really prepared for how violent that rape is. It's like, 'Wow! He's really giving it to me.'"
Music critics and fans have expressed dismay at Kinney's comparison. But his statement is more than an innocent example of foolishness. Rather, it epitomizes a view that is both commonplace and dangerous: that rape somehow is innate to life behind bars, and therefore something not worthy of serious attention.
Prisoner rape is not inevitable. And sexual assault is never a laughing matter. On the contrary, it is unlawful and preventable. Corrections officials can, and must, take action to prevent such abuse - and to address assaults that occur on their watch. The rest of us can help by refusing to make light of what is a devastating human rights violation.