Widespread sex abuse reported at juvenile centers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government says 1 in 10 youths at juvenile detention facilities around the country reported having been sexually victimized by staff or by other youths.

The study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that among the more than 1,300 youths who reported victimization by adult staff, 9 out of 10 were male juvenile detainees reporting sexual activity with female staff members.

According to the bureau, about 2.5 percent of juveniles, or 450, reported a sexual incident involving another youth last year, and 7.7 percent, or 1,390, reported an incident involving facility staff.

The survey mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act defines sexual victimization as any unwanted sexual activity between youth and all sexual activity between youth and adult staff.

Young males made up more than 90 percent of the juvenile population at the facilities surveyed, and women accounted for nearly 45 percent of the staff.

The survey was conducted between February and September 2012 in 273 state-owned or operated juvenile facilities and 53 local or privately operated facilities that held youths under state contract. The survey covered incidents in the previous 12 months.

One in five victims of staff sexual misconduct reported experiencing physical force or threats. One in five said they were given drugs or alcohol to engage in sexual contact.

“It’s deeply troubling that staff — the very people charged with helping these young people turn their lives around — are the primary perpetrators of sexual abuse,” said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, an advocacy group. “Today’s report illustrates the fundamental failure of many juvenile detention facilities to keep their youth safe, and to demand that staff uphold the most basic standards of professional behavior.”

There was marked improvement in the figures between 2008-09 and 2012. The rate of sexual victimization dropped from 12.6 percent to 9.9 percent in that period.

“These numbers are both devastating and hopeful,” said Stannow. “They show clearly that it is possible to protect young detainees from the devastation of sexual abuse.”

Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina each had a sexual victimization rate of more than 15 percent. Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia had no reported incidents of sexual victimization.

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Online:

Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://bjs.gov

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