Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities

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Between June 2008 and April 2009, BJS completed the first National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC) of 166 state-owned or operated facilities and 29 locally or privately operated facilities. The survey, conducted by Westat (Rockville, MD), was restricted to juvenile confinement facilities that held adjudicated youth for at least 90 days.

Highlights from the survey:

    This report presents findings from the first National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC), representing approximately 26,550 adjudicated youth held nationwide in state operated and large locally or privately operated juvenile facilities. Overall, 91% of youth in these facilities were male; 9% were female.
    • An estimated 12% of youth in state juvenile facilities and large non-state facilities (representing 3,220 youth nationwide) reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another youth or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission, if less than 12 months.

    • About 2.6% of youth (700 nationwide) reported an incident involving another youth, and 10.3% (2,730) reported an incident involving facility staff.

    • About 4.3% of youth (1,150) reported having sex or other sexual contact with facility staff as a result of some type of force; 6.4% of youth (1,710) reported sexual contact with facility
      staff without any force, threat, or other explicit form of coercion.

    • Approximately 95% of all youth reporting staff sexual misconduct said they had been victimized by female staff. In 2008, 42% of staff in state juvenile facilities were female.

    • Thirteen facilities were identified as “high rate” based on the lower bound of the 95%-confidence interval of at least 35% higher than the average rate among facilities by type of consent. Eleven facilities were identified as “low rate” based on a low rate of youth reporting sexual victimization and a low upper bound for the 95%-confidence interval around the rate.

    • Rates of reported sexual victimization varied among youth:
      • 10.8% of males and 4.7% of females reported sexual activity with facility staff.

      • 9.1% of females and 2.0% of males reported unwanted sexual activity with other youth.

      • Youth with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual reported significantly higher rates of sexual victimization by another youth (12.5%) compared to heterosexual youth (1.3%).

      • Youth who had experienced any prior sexual assault were more than twice as likely to report sexual victimization in the current facility (24.1%), compared to those with no sexual assault history (10.1%).

Read more of the finding here.

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Sui Zhang