WASHINGTON — An estimated 12 percent of youth offenders housed in state and large local and private juvenile facilities reported sexual victimization during their incarcerations, according to a government study.
The first “National Survey of Youth in Custody” documented 3,220 reports by adjudicated youth of at least one incident each of sexual victimization — defined as any unwanted sexual activity between youth and all sexual activity between youth and staff — during the previous 12 months, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The survey was conducted between June 2008 and April 2009 in 166 state-owned or operated juvenile facilities and 29 locally or privately operated facilities throughout the United States. Researchers surveyed almost 9,200 juveniles as a representative sample.
Juveniles who had experienced a prior sexual assault at another facility were six times more likely to report sexual victimization in their current facilities (65 percent) compared to those with no previous history of sexual assault (10.9 percent), according to the report. Juveniles who had experienced a sexual assault prior to incarceration were more than twice as likely to report sexual victimization during their incarcerations (24 percent) than those with no previous history (10 percent).
Approximately 10 percent of juveniles (2,730) reported incidents involving facility staff, while about 2.5 percent (700) reported incidents involving other juveniles.
Males were more likely than females to report sexual activity with facility staff — 10.8 percent, compared to 4.7 percent. More than 90 percent of juveniles in the survey were males.
More than 4 percent of juveniles (1,150) reported having sex or sexual contact with staff under force, threat or some other explicit form of coercion. About 5 percent of juveniles victimized by staff reported being injured during the incidents.
Approximately 95 percent of all juveniles who reported staff sexual misconduct identified the perpetrator as being female. In 2008, female staff accounted for 42 percent of staff in juvenile facilities under state jurisdiction, according to the BJS.
Juveniles with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual reported significantly higher rates of sexual victimization by another juvenile (12.5 percent) than heterosexual juveniles (1.3 percent).
The survey, which included data from at least one facility in every state, classified 13 facilities — in Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee Texas and Virginia — as having high rates of victimization.
Researchers defined a high rate of victimization as reporting 35 percent more incidents than the average rate across the 195 facilities surveyed.
Six facilities had victimization rates of at least 30 percent, four had rates between 25 percent and 30 percent and three had rates of 20 to 25 percent, according to the report.
Researchers classified 11 facilities as having low rates of victimization. Those facilities were located in states including California, Florida, Idaho, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington. Five facilities, in Colorado, Missouri, Oregon and Wyoming, recorded no incidents of victimization, according to the report.