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Rape and Other Sexual Violence in the Juvenile Justice System

Any kind of violence is forbidden by the worldwide laws and decrees, but the sexual issue in less published and discussed due to some peculiarities. It is dangerous to neglect the fact of sexual slavery of the youth, including imprisoned teenagers, because this is a reality that exists inside of the justice system. The system does not regulate the ways how it must be improved so the reforms within youth sexual defense are necessary. The result of those reforms will define the life of the future generations. Sexual violence within the juvenile detention facilities is a strong challenge that defines the potential effectiveness of the entire juvenile justice system.
There are more than 80,000 teenagers in the juvenile detention facilities across the country; mostly they are 16 years old and younger. The Just Detention International organization mentions that near two thirds of them are in for truancy, drugs, parole violation, and others non violent offences. A great number of such teenagers have alcohol or drug addiction, severe learning disabilities, or mental illnesses. The U.S. Department of Justice survey annually reports about hundreds of teen- aged victims of sexual abuse while they are being held in the juvenile detention facilities. Near 20% of the victims had been raped more than ten times according to the Just Detention International organization. It means that the system of youth safety does not work within the juvenile detention facilities.
The teenagers are mostly assaulted by the workers of the specialized establishments. The Justice Department survey involved 8,5000 teenagers and found out that 1,720 out of them had been sexually assaulted. Comparing to the statistics of adults, the sexual abuse towards teenagers is three times higher. The territory occupation with the highest rate of this problem includes Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and South Carolina. In Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio and the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Georgia, every third teenager became a victim of a sexual abuse, committed by the staff member. In addition, the Human Rights Watch mentioned that near 95% of the young victims was raped by female staff, 63% of teenagers had at least one sexual contact with the staff member in which no explicit coercion or force was used. The inner scheme of the sexual slave system is simple. The staff members that look after and supervise youngsters establish good relationship with the inmates. It can be sharing personal stories or life experience, photos, some preferences or presents. This leads to forming of the trust towards the establishment personnel so when the victim is required to make sexual services the arguments are supported by the facts of the victim’s debit.
The additional power of the personnel of correctional facilities makes a strong impact on the system. The thing is about control on inmate’s life, including food supplies and clothing, access to the bathroom and other services. The conditions of punishment are regulated by the staff as well: from beatings to sentence extension. As a result, it is hard to measure the exact amount of such cases. Some inmates make a false claim with the purpose to make revenge and get freedom as a sexual victim who needs treatment. At the same time, sometimes teenagers are afraid to retaliate despite the security programs and guarantee of anonymity so they never confess to being sexually abused. Teen survivors are very vulnerable to depression, drug addiction, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The pain of sexual abuse leads to uncontrolled and dangerous behavior. Those omissions within the juvenile justice system caused the situation when half of the officials whose sexual abuse of teenagers is proved are not seriously punished. When the staff members are accused of a crime that in more than 50 states forbids sexual relationships with inmates, the prosecutors usually avoid publicity or deep investigation of such cases. They do not suppose those children are their constituents and, moreover, a quarter of the staff members who committed sexual crimes are allowed to continue their work within justice institutions.
Speaking about prison surrounding, when an inmate is raped for the first time he is called “turned out”. It means he will be raped again because he has more physical and psychological submission. That is why such a big amount (88%) of the teenagers who were raped more than ten times (in fact, 42% of the victims were assaulted by few perpetrators). Many victims stay in their facilities for just 6 months.
This is clearly observed while learning human rights organization’s reports that are more objective than given by the government. Thus, Human Rights Watch gave the results of their own investigation about the juvenile detention facilities: The commission insists that rape is not inevitable behind bars. Despite the abuse tendency was generalized and mostly concentrated on non-sexual aspect, the statistics demonstrates the necessity in constructive reply to this challenge.
The only one legislative standard that compels juvenile facilities to adopt defined steps for protection of the imprisoned teenagers from sexual abuse is The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). It was issued in May 2012 and only in August 2013, those rules became binding on every facility, especially youth detention centers. The PREA is the only one legislative paper that limits staff behavior (looking at the opposite gender teenagers while they are taking a shower, using bathroom, or changing clothes). In addition, the document formally guarantees protection for vulnerable youth (including sexual abuse survivors and LGBT detainees). Practically, it is not effective enough yet, but it is possible that in the future some better alternatives will be found.
In total calculation, thousands of teenagers suffer from sexual abuse after being raped annually, while the government sponsors the programs of child protection and rehabilitation. The problem is in necessity in reforms within the justice system for juveniles. It must clarify the limits of the staff members’ functions, abuse prevention and harsh punishment, deep investigation and prevention of the corruption. The slow reformation process makes a risk of ineffective work of the youth punishment establishments that neglects entire international basic norms of human rights.

About the Author: Alice Halls is a freelance writer from Australia, Port Linkoln. She works with

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