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The Problem of Rape and Sexual Violence in Prison

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Abstract

Rape is the most closely protected secret of American prisons. Modern jails and prisons are designed to protect inmates from each other and allow for constant penal supervision. However, incarceration creates a high risk of sexual victimization for males. Prisoners are subjected to and experience sexual violence inside prisons, further exposing them to sexually transmitted diseases. The aftermath of sexual violence follows the individual into society upon his release. It is a fact of prison life, unsettling to inmates, staff, and administration alike. Such exploitation is generally unacknowledged, moderately understood, and inadequately addressed. Degrees of sexual victimization differs by age, looks, and sexual orientation. Sexual violence inside prison is a serious public health issue needing aimed interventions to prevent and better its health and social outcomes. The Prison Rape Elimination Act established in 2003 addresses the problem of sexual violence in U.S. correctional facilities, however, this failed.

The shadowy truth of life behind bars

It is terrible to get raped but having to see your perpetrator every day with the possibility of being raped again is an endless fear that many inmates must face. According to the Bureau of Justice, in 2011 to 2012, 29300 prisoners reported an incident involving another inmate, 34100 reported an incident involving facility staff, and 5500 reported both an incident by another inmate and staff (Beck, Berzofsky, Caspar, & Krebs, 2013). But these statistics do not include the many cases that go unreported due to embarrassment, threat of retaliation, fear of being labeled a homosexual, or belief in the uselessness of reporting to prison officials. Although prison rape is ubiquitous, many individuals find it normal and even find it a laughing matter, “don’t drop the soap”, “sleep on your back or somebody else will”. Prison rape is not normal and has huge effects if not dealt with.

“To understand the dynamics of sexual victimization one needs to be aware of prison subculture and its code of conduct precisely as it connects to sexual behavior in prison”. A diversity of sexual behavior is clear in men’s prisons. These include the following: the “kid” or “punk,” which is an inmate who is forced into a sexually obedient role, the “stud” or “jocker,” are men who have sexual intercourse with homosexuals or punks, the “queen” or “sissy,” is a homosexual or transsexual male who embrace stereotyped girly mannerisms and mainly plays the obedient sexual role, and the “homosexual” or “gay,” are men who are more diverse in their sexual activity, who assume both active and passive roles, and who display few girly mannerisms.

Certain prisoners are chosen for sexual assault based on their age, looks, sexual orientation, and other characteristics such as feminine appearances. An example is that of Dee Farmer, a young transsexual with ‘overtly feminine characteristics’ who was brutally raped within two weeks of arriving in a maximum-security federal prison. Nonetheless, a prisoner does not have to look like a woman to be exposed to sexual assault. Many individuals would believe that rape offenders in a men’s prison are mostly homosexuals. On the contrary, “5.5% of men in prisons are gay or bisexual”. Homosexuals are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than perpetrators. The fundamentals of race and ethnicity have a difficult and important impact on the problem of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse. According to almost every report in the late 1960s and 1970s, prison victims were white and the aggressors where African American (Kunzel, 2008, p. 151). “Sociologist Leo Carroll was struck by the frequency with which sexual assaults were interracial and estimated that, 75% or more of the sexual assaults involved black aggressors and white victim” (Kunzel, 2008, p. 151). Perpetrators in prison are often bigger or stronger than their victims, confident, physically aggressive, and more at home in the prison atmosphere. They are often gang members and become rapists to overpower their victims or to offer protection. Once an inmate is “marked” by sexual abuse in prison, victims are often viewed as obedient and weak, creating further opportunity for victimization to occur. Some incidents of rape occur because proper penal supervision is missing, yet other rape incidents occur in closely supervised surroundings (Lockwood, 1980, p. 90).

“The effects of sexual victimization in prison have been linked to numerous psychological outcomes. The main psychological conditions that individuals often face after sexual victimization is posttraumatic stress disorder, stress response syndrome and rape trauma syndrome” (Magus, n.d.). The spreading of HIV which causes the AIDS virus is also a serious problem to victims of prison rape. “In 1997, an estimated 35000 to 47000 prisoners were infected with HIV and another 8900 had AIDS”. In 1994, Michael Blucker, claimed that he had gotten HIV from being constantly raped at the Menard Correctional Center. He tested HIV-negative after being sent to Menard in May 1993 but was HIV-positive when tested again in April. Blucker sued the Illinois Department of Correction, pressuring Representative Cal Skinner, Jr., an Illinois state representative, to establish legislation to protect prisoners against rape.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed by congress in 2003 to address sexual victimization in prisons across the United States. The purpose of this policy is to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in imprisonment. PREA established a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse in correctional facilities . Because of the PREA policy, training programs for correctional staff were developed to address inmate sexual assaults. “Understanding the psychological and physical outcomes of prison rape not only benefits the victims of the assaults, but also the community and family members of the victim” . After the PREA policy was passed, correctional officers felt that the standards were too firm, it shouldn’t apply to all facilities, it should be voluntary, and that the policy is too focused on LGBT inmates. Some officers believe the federal government interferes too much into local facility policies and creates extra work for no good reason. These objections come from officers in prisons, jails, juvenile institutions and community detention facilities, all of which are obligated to obey the Prison Rape Elimination Act . While the Prison Rape Elimination Act policy states that prison rape is a problem, it does come with certain flawed factors. A primary issue with the policy in correctional facilities is that many of the prisoners are asked to report sexual assault to those who are either initiating the problem, causing the problem or looking away when the incident occurs (i.e., prison guards).

According to a news article, a teenage prisoner who was incarcerated with adults was raped by another prisoner who transmitted the teen with HIV. A federal lawsuit had been filled against the Louisiana jail for negligence. A sheriff and two other deputies are also sued for violating the teen’s constitutional rights and ignoring a federal law that should have kept the teen separated from the adult inmates. The lawsuit seeks unstipulated fiscal damages against the sheriff, the jail’s warden and another deputy. The lawsuit also states that the teen met the standards for a ‘high risk sexual victim’ under the PREA policy and should have remained separated from the adult prisoners. Instead, the teen was transferred from the juvenile department and attacked by a man awaiting trial on rape and robbery charges (Kunzelman, 2018). This violent act could have been prevented if the teen wasn’t transferred from the juvenile wing. Correctional officers should pay attention and protect young inmates in an adult prison against sexual violence. Because of negligence this young boy now has a health problem due to contracting the HIV virus from his perpetrator.

Conclusion

Prison rape will either increase or remain unchanging because many victims do not report these incidents due to embarrassment or fear of retaliation, and certain incarceration facilities do not obey the PREA policy. Prison rape is not caused by the lack of women, but is mainly caused to overpower victims, create fear and status. Some victims feel that rape has socially murdered them and that they will be dismissed because they will no longer be viewed as a man. The catastrophes these men go through includes not only fear but self- hatred and doubt about future social and self-acceptability.

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The Problem Of Rape And Sexual Violence In Prison. (2021, October 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-problem-of-rape-and-sexual-violence-in-prison/
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The Problem Of Rape And Sexual Violence In Prison. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-problem-of-rape-and-sexual-violence-in-prison/> [Accessed 18 Jan. 2022].
The Problem Of Rape And Sexual Violence In Prison [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Oct 25 [cited 2022 Jan 18]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-problem-of-rape-and-sexual-violence-in-prison/
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