New Report Reveals Sexual Victimization Rates in U.S. Juvenile Facilities

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Photo courtesy of Black Youth Project

The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has released a new report detailing rates of sexual victimization in the nation’s juvenile facilities.

The report, incorporating data from the 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody, found that nearly one in 10 young people in state-operated or state-contracted juvenile facilities reported at least one sexual victimization incident last year. Approximately 2.5 percent of youth in juvenile facilities reported victimization at the hands of fellow inmates, the report states, while 7.7 percent of survey takers said they had experienced sexual abuse from facility staffers. Of the 7.7 percent, 3.5 percent of young people in juvenile facilities reported being coerced into sexual contact by staff or other facility personnel.

“Most victims of staff sexual misconduct reported more than one incident,” the report reads. “Among these youth, nearly one in five reported 11 or more incidents.”

The new estimates, however, represent a downturn in the national rate of sexual abuse,  with the overall rates of juvenile facility sexual victimization declining from 12.6 percent when the first National Survey of Youth in Custody was conducted in 2009, to 9.9 percent in 2012.

About 8 percent of males in juvenile facilities reported sexual contact with staff in 2012, compared to less than 3 percent of female detainees. However, at 5.4 percent, more females in juvenile facilities reported sexual victimization from other inmates than boys, of whom 2.2 percent reported fellow youth victimization.

Among the young people reporting inmate victimization, two-thirds said they were subjected to sexual contact by physical force or intimidation, while about a quarter were offered “favors of protection” in exchange for sexual activity. Almost one-fourth reported receiving drugs or alcohol as “payment” for sexual acts.

White youth were found to be nearly three times likelier to experience inmate sexual victimization than black or Hispanic youth, the report states, while African-American youth reported higher staff sexual victimization rates than either white or Hispanic young people. According to the new BJS findings, LGBT youth in juvenile facilities are nearly seven times likelier to report youth-on-youth victimization than heterosexual detainees.

Nearly seven out of 10 youth-on-youth victims said they were sexually assaulted more than once, with almost two-out-of-five detainees reporting being attacked by more than one detainee. Eighty-two percent of youths who were subjected to inmate abuse, however, reported no injuries to facility personnel.

The new report, for the first time, lists state-level estimates of sexual victimization in juvenile facilities. According to BJS figures, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina had the highest overall rates of juvenile sexual victimization, while three states -- Delaware, Massachusetts and New York -- were found to have no reported sexual victimization incidents.

The rates of sexual victimization at privately operated or local facilities were nearly half that of state-operated facilities, the report reads.

In regards to individual facilities, 13 were identified as “high-rate,” with sexual victimization at the facilities hovering at 35 percent higher than the national average. The BJS report singles out two facilities -- Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio and Georgia’s Paulding Regional Detention Center -- as having overall sexual victimization rates in excess of 30 percent.

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