Government Prisoner Rape Report Findings
Represent the Tip of the Iceberg
August 1, 2005
National human rights organization Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) welcomed the
release on Sunday, July 31, 2005, of the U.S. Department of Justice’s
first statistical report on prisoner rape, while cautioning that the
report findings represent only the tip of the iceberg.
The government report, which covers formal complaints filed by inmates,
found that nearly 2,100 incidents of sexual violence were substantiated
in U.S. prisons, jails, and youth detention centers last year.
“In our experience, the vast majority of prisoner rape survivors never
report their assaults. Their reluctance to do so typically stems from
fear of retaliation, embarrassment, or a concern that they will not be
believed,” said Lovisa Stannow, Acting Executive Director of SPR.
The U.S. Department of Justice report documented a total of 8,210
allegations of sexual violence in 2004. Almost 42 percent of those
allegations involved staff-on-inmate sexual abuse, and an additional 11
percent involved sexual harassment of prisoners by staff. The report
established that the most common outcome of investigations into
incidents of sexual violence was a determination of lack of evidence.
“This report is an important step toward acknowledging that sexual
violence behind bars is a nationwide human rights problem of alarming
proportions,” Stannow said. “However, in order for us to establish the
true prevalence of prisoner rape, we need to talk to inmates directly,
rather than rely on administrative records.”
The U.S. Department of Justice report, which will be published annually,
is mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), the
first-ever federal legislation to address prisoner rape. A survey of
past and present inmates, which will provide a much more detailed
account of the prevalence of prisoner rape, will be initiated in 2006.
SPR is the only non-governmental organization in the country dedicated
exclusively to eliminating sexual violence against men, women, and youth
in detention. SPR was instrumental in securing the passage of PREA.
Click here to view the newly released U.S. Department of Justice report, "Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities, 2004."