January 11, 2010 9:16 pm

A new report finds sex abuse high at 13 juvenile facilities

A distressing government study from the Justice Department released on Jan. 7 reported one out of every three youths at 13 juvenile detention facilities have reported some type of sexual victimization. The AP said:

Nationwide about 12 percent of youths held in state-run, privately run, or local facilities reported some type of sexual victimization, the Justice Department found in the first report of its kind. The rates varied widely between facilities. Victimization included forced sexual activity with another youth and all sexual activity with staff.

Most shocking, however, was the report’s high level of sexual abuse perpetrated by staff members.

About 10 percent of youths surveyed reported abuse involving facility staff people, and nearly all of those complaints were against female staffers, who made up less than half of the workers. About 2 percent of the reported abuse involving other young inmates.

Although the reliability of the data is still uncertain, the ACLU of Illinois Assistant Legal Director and Director of the Institutionalized Persons and Children Project, Ben Wolf, said physical and sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers is an enormous problem.

“We’ve been working hard to reduce the level of violence and abuse at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in our ongoing litigation on behalf of the youths at that facility,” Wolf said.

An article from the New York Review of Books commented on the staff abuse and featured some of the traumatic experiences juveniles have faced:

A full 80 percent of the abuse reported in the study was perpetrated not by other inmates but by staff. And shockingly, 95 percent of the youth making such allegations said they were victimized by female staff. 64 percent of them reported at least one incident of sexual contact with staff in which no force or explicit coercion was used; staff caught having sex with inmates often claim it’s consensual. But staff have enormous control over inmates’ lives. They can give them privileges, such as extra food or clothing or the opportunity to wash, and they can punish them: everything from beatings to solitary confinement to extended sentences. The notion of a truly consensual relationship in such circumstances is grotesque even when the inmate is not a child.

For further information, Jezebel has an article worth checking out.

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