Queer Injustice: The Widespread Sexual Abuse LGBT People Face in Prison

Published: February 25, 2011

SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Since sexual violence is one of the principal weapons of policing and punishing perceived sexual deviance and gender nonconformity on the outside, it may come as no surprise that it’s wielded to even greater effect in the highly controlled and violent environment of modern prisons. Roderick Johnson’s case and similarly horrifying experiences of countless other incarcerated queers illustrate the ways in which sexual violence allows prison authorities to control the queered prison environment as a whole.

Studies indicate that as many as one in four female prisoners and one in five male prisoners are subjected to some form of sexual violence at the hands of prison staff and other prisoners. Numbers vary depending on the methodology used in a study or survey, and many victims do not report instances of sexual violence they endure be- cause they fear retaliation, stigmatization, and isolation. Others fail to report assaults because they have become inured to it after years of abuse and forced sexual encounters. Consequently, reported instances of sexual violence represent only the tip of the iceberg. The most recent surveys completed by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) extrapolated that 60,500 incarcerated adults or 4.5 percent of the prison population were sexually abused in 2007 alone, while 3,220 or 12 percent of youth incarcerated in juvenile detention centers were sexually violated by a staff member (10.3 percent) or another youth within the first twelve months of their admission.

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