The Truth About Prisoner Rape

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Share the facts about prisoner rape – and read the stories of the people behind the numbers.

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FACT: One in eight youth behind bars is sexually abused.

Jason Effman is a prison official in New York State. His job is to bring the state’s prisons into compliance with the new national standards to end sexual abuse behind bars. Recently, Jason learned that an inmate in one of the men’s prisons was sexually abused by other inmates. The survivor was traumatized by the assault – things had gotten so bad that he was contemplating suicide. Jason immediately responded to the survivor’s request for help, and began working with a local organization to bring a trained counselor into the prison to help him heal.

But Jason’s job is about more than helping individual survivors. Every day, he uses what he learns from survivors’ experiences to create better, more effective policies for his entire state. In a letter to the man who survived the assault, Jason wrote: “Your letter describes the struggles you have faced finding help during this difficult time. This will help shape our policies and staff education as we continue to move forward.”

We can stop prisoner rape – and we will. We know this because, just ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a corrections official to bring in an outside counselor to provide services to an incarcerated survivor.

Today, there are more and more people like Jason – committed corrections officials who are using the national standards as a tool to improve safety in their facilities and get incarcerated survivors the help they need.

There are also more and more people like you – people who have the courage and compassion to stand up for every person’s right to be treated with dignity.

Please share this image on Facebook and Twitter, and make sure your friends know that this is a crisis we can end.

Learn more about how to prevent sexual abuse behind bars »


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FACT: One in eight youth behind bars is sexually abused.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sexual Victimization Reported by Former State Prisoners, 2008, May 2012

Chino was still a teenager when she was sent to a women’s prison in New York State. Almost immediately, she was targeted by older women who were ready to take advantage of her youth and inexperience in the ways of prison life. Chino was forced to seek help from another inmate, a woman twice her age and the leader of a prison gang.

Chino’s protector kept her safe from other inmates -- but that protection came at a terrible price. At first, Chino was able to reject the older woman’s sexual advances -- despite feeling that she was in her debt. Then one day, while Chino was in the shower, the older woman sexually assaulted her. Chino was devastated by the abuse, and felt completely powerless to stop it. More than a decade later, she still struggles to cope.

Today, in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, can you share Chino’s story -- and this fact about the prevalence of this abuse -- on Facebook and Twitter?

Sharing these stories helps uncover the truth about prisoner rape -- and that takes us one step closer to stopping it.  As Chino, who works today as an advocate, said, “By increasing public awareness, I feel some small measure of peace within myself.”

Read Chino's story here.


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FACT: One in eight youth behind bars is sexually abused.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sexual Victimization Reported by Former State Prisoners, 2008, May 2012

Inmates often feel powerless to report a rape -- especially when the perpetrator is a member of staff. 

Just ask Jonathan.

Jonathan’s rapist was Mr. Miller, a high-ranking official at the federal prison where Jonathan was serving time. Everyone at the prison -- even other staff -- knew that Mr. Miller was sexually assaulting inmates. Yet staff allowed it to continue, and punished inmates who spoke out.

Mr. Miller used his power to keep Jonathan close -- and make sure he kept quiet. He hired Jonathan to work directly for him, as a cook. Jonathan knew that if he told someone, or tried to defend himself, Mr. Miller would claim that he was the attacker. So the abuse continued.  

At JDI, we hear stories like Jonathan’s every day. Survivors of staff sexual abuse often tell us how difficult it is to come forward because of the threats they face. Indeed, government research shows that almost half of all inmates who report this type of abuse are punished themselves.

After many months, Jonathan finally found officials whom he could trust, at the FBI. Mr. Miller was prosecuted for his crimes. Now, Jonathan, who has been moved to a new facility, is committed to making sure that no one else has to suffer like he did.

Today, share this fact about staff sexual violence (on Facebook or Twitter)-- and the story of someone who survived it. Let’s make sure that the truth is out about prisoner rape, so that we can help end it, once and for all.

Read Jonathan's story here.


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FACT: One in eight youth behind bars is sexually abused.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sexual Victimization Reported by Former State Prisoners, 2008, May 2012

In 2007, Ca’Linda was raped by a corrections officer while serving time at a county jail in Kentucky. She was transferred to a state prison in 2010, but that didn’t keep her safe. A lieutenant at her new facility sexually assaulted her repeatedly. In both cases, Ca’Linda reported the abuse, yet staff accused her of lying or, even worse, threatened her.

Sexual abuse in detention happens with terrifying frequency. People like Ca’Linda, who is bisexual and who was sexually abused as a child, are the most vulnerable. Studies have shown that there are two leading risk factors for prisoner rape: one is being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and the other is having been previously sexually abused.

Today, Ca’Linda continues to speak out about her abuse. As she put it, “Sharing my story with others empowers me as a survivor.”

Right now, will you share this fact about prisoner rape – and the stories of the people behind the numbers, like Ca’Linda?

Read Ca'Linda's story here.


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FACT: One in eight youth behind bars is sexually abused.

At 15, Cyryna was arrested for running away. She was sent to a youth facility in Hawaii, her home state, where she was threatened constantly by staff. They said that if she ever acted up, they would send her to the section for boys. Cyryna was terrified, knowing that, as a transgender girl, she would be even more vulnerable there.

One day, all of the girls were transferred to another facility – everyone except Cyryna, who was moved to the boys’ section. Predictably, Cyryna became a target for sexual abuse almost instantly. Staff either ignored the abuse or, worse still, encouraged it. As Cyryna put it, “My time there was a living hell.”

Cyryna’s experience is heartbreakingly common. One in eight youth detainees – more than 12 percent – is sexually abused. For transgender youth like Cyryna, the rates are nine times higher. Read Cyryna's story here.