This is a comment I wrote on Alas, a blog in January 2012. It was a rebuttal to the claim that most sexual assaults on male victims in the US occur in prison in light of the recently published NISVS 2010 Report. I have added links to the BJS papers on prison rape.
…most sexual assaults on male victims in the US occur in prison.
That is just not true.
Approximately 1% of the US population is incarcerated (2009 numbers from Wikipedia article on Prison Rates). The statistics you referred to shows that appr. 1 in 20 (4.4%) prisoners reported sexual victimization in the last 12 months.
BJS states that this amounts to a total of 88.500 prisoners who were sexually abused in a year.
Looking at page 19 in the NISVS 2010 Report from CDC one find these findings:
1.1% of men reported “being made to penetrate someone else” in the last 12 months – this is estimated to 1.267.000 men which is more than 88.500.
1.5% of men reported “sexual coercion” in the last 12 months – this is estimated to 1.669.000 men which is more than 88.500.
2.3% of men reported “unwanted sexual contact” in the last 12 months – this is estimated to 2.565.000 men which is more than 88.500.
These are numbers for the last 12 months (the survey were conducted between January 2010 an December 2010).
So saying that more men are victimized inside prison than outside is clearly incorrect and a total disregard of a high number of male victims outside prisons. If you had said that the risk/rate for men being victimized inside prison is higher than outside then you would be correct (not least so because male inmate victims experience very often repeat victimization).
Another misconception which is belied by the statistics is that the vast majority of perpetrators of sexual violence/assault or rape of a man is another man.
79.2% of the men reporting “being made to penetrate someone else” reported only female perpetrator(s). 84% for “sexual coercion” and 53% for “unwanted sexual contact”. (NISVS 2010 p.24)
Contrary to common belief the most common victimization by men in prisons and jails are not inmate-on-inmate victimization, but rather what the BJS calls “staff sexual misconduct”:
Inmate-on-inmate: 33.929 victims
Staff sexual misconduct: 53.455 victims – 64-69% of these reported a female perpetrator. An additional 16-17% reported both female and male perpetrators.
(I operated with a range since BSJ reported one number for prison and the other for jail – I didn’t take the time to calculate the exact percentage, but it is somewhere between the two numbers I’ve quoted).
So not only are men now much more likely to be a victim of sexual assault, sexual violence or rape than previously thought, it also turns out that the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault, sexual violence or rape of men are women when one look at both inside and outside prisons/jails.
For female inmates it’s the opposite: the majority of victims were victims of inmate-on-inmate rather than of “staff sexual misconduct”:
7.797 vs. 3.608. Of the 3.608 62-71% reported male perpetrator while the remaining 29-38% were either female perpetrators or both male and female perpetrators. Given that the majority of institutions are gender segregated – only 4 of the surveyed institutions where women were measured were co-ed institutions and those were not outliers in the rate of inmate-on-inmate victims – it seems likely that the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault, sexual violence and sexual rape of female inmates are women. Outside women are at a much higher risk being victimized by men than by other women.
Human Rights Watch’s critique of BSJ framing of “staff sexual misconduct” can for example be seen here: http://www.hrw.org/news/2007/12/15/us-federal-statistics-show-widespread-prison-rape
Postscript: Alon Levy thought I meant something I didn’t mean so I’ll include the clarification I made in a subsequent comment below:
… I wonder if you thought I said that women are the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault, sexual violence and rape of male inmates. I want to make clear that I did not make that statement. I used the word AND between the BSJ results and the NISVS 2010 results in a combinatory sense – not in a separation sense. I can see how it could be misread and I hope I have cleared that up.