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."