JDI IN THE NEWS - 2002

Michael Betsch, Group Says FBI Report Overlooks Prison Rape Statistics, CNSNews.com, November 4, 2002.

(CNSNews.com) - A human rights group founded by survivors of prison rape is calling on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to amend its yearly crime report to include men under its category of "forcible rape." According to Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR), "People who are raped in prison are seen as something of a joke in our society."

"Forcible rape," as defined by the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for 2001, "is the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly against her will. Assaults or attempts to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded."

According to the UCR, "62.2 of every 100,000 females were victims of forcible rape in 2001 compared to 62.7 in the previous year." The report notes, "Of the total rapes reported for 2001, 90 percent were classified as rapes and the remainder were attempts."

Upon examination of the recently released report, Stemple said she was amazed to discover that the FBI explicitly defines 'forcible rape' as the rape of females only. "It's just blatantly discriminatory against men," she said.

"When men are raped, it's put into a lesser category of either simple assaults or a sex offense," Stemple said. "But those aren't considered to be violent crimes and they're not included when the FBI makes its overall claim every year about whether violent crime is on the increase or decrease."

And, she said there is no conclusive nationwide data pertaining to forcible prison rape that exists.

According to Stemple, the FBI's failure to account for the male victims of forcible rape is a clear example of how government ignores the daily human rights violations that prisoners endure throughout the term of their incarceration.

"We have two million people in prison in the U.S. and one out of ten men in prison say that they've been raped," she said. "By just completely ignoring that, we're not really getting an accurate view of exactly what is going on in terms of all violent crime."

Coerced Sex vs. Forcible Rape

Stemple said not all male-on-male prison sex fits under the definition of forcible rape.

"We do know that many men were forcibly raped, beaten and gang-raped and they've contracted HIV/AIDS through this type of thing ... definitely not a consensual act," she said.

But Stemple said there are also many "convoluted situations" where some inmates exchange sex for physical protection. She explained that those men who fear they will be assaulted or raped by multiple men or gangs would pair up with a "big guy" who pledges to spare them from harm.

That unique protection service is known as "protective pairing," Stemple said. And, anyone who provides or submits to protective pairing would not fit the FBI's definition of forcible rape because the sex act would be considered consensual, she noted.

Stemple has asked the FBI to consider using gender-neutral terminology when reporting forcible rape in order to achieve a more accurate account of the victims of this crime.

"That's a more contemporary policy in line with the reality of there's many ways that humans manage to abuse one another," she said.

The FBI has not yet responded to Stop Prisoner Rape's petition, Stemple said. Last year, the Philadelphia-based Women's Law Project also petitioned the FBI to broaden the Uniform Crime Report's definition of forcible rape to include men. However, the FBI report did not incorporate the Philadelphia group's suggestion in its 2001 report.

An FBI official, speaking on background, told CNSNews.com that it is not possible to have a male rape victim under the UCR's definition of forcible rape. However, there is a relatively unknown crime reporting system that does incorporate males into its rape victim data.

The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) was created in the 1980s, but has only seen spotted use across the country since its inception. Forcible sex offenses committed against men are documented by NIBRS to include: forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object and forcible fondling.

Congressional Action

Stemple hopes a bi-partisan bill, known as the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2002, will add seriousness to an issue that is "constantly ignored" and "seen as something of a joke in our society." The first-of-its-kind federal legislation was co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

The pending legislation creates three programs in the Department of Justice: one dedicated to collecting national statistics about the problem; one to facilitate confidential reports of prisoner rape and provide training about how to address it; and one that will provide grants to combat the problem.

An investigative commission would also be established under terms of the legislation to produce a report and new national standards on how to address prisoner rape that states may or may not choose to adopt.

SPR intends to bring forward survivors of prison rape to testify when congressional hearings are held on the issue.