söndag 5 februari 2012

More men than women are raped in the US

From 1980 to 2007, the number of prisoners held in the United States quadrupled to 2.3 million, with an additional 5 million on probation or parole. What Ayn Rand once called the “freest, noblest country in the history of the world” is now the most incarcerated, and the second-most incarcerated country in history, just barely edged out by Stalin’s Soviet Union. We’re used to hearing about the widening chasm between the haves and have-nots; we’re less accustomed to contemplating a more fundamental gap: the abyss that separates the fortunate majority, who control their own bodies, from the luckless minority, whose bodies are controlled, and defiled, by the state.

Within a month of arriving at Clemens Unit, a temporary holding facility outside Houston for juveniles on their way to adult prison, Hulin was raped by another inmate. He asked to be moved out of harm’s way, but his request was denied, and the rapes continued. In a letter to prison authorities, he wrote, “I might die at any minute. Please sir, help me.” Help was not forthcoming: getting raped was not deemed urgent enough to meet the requirements of the prison’s emergency grievance criteria. When Hulin got his mother to complain to the prison’s warden, she was told that Hulin needed to “grow up” and “learn to deal with it.

”Hulin’s method for dealing with it was to kill himself. Ten weeks after his arrival, he was discovered dangling from the ceiling of his cell.

Hulin’s case was unusual: most prisoners who get raped do not write letters to the warden. It isn’t hard to see why: resisting an inmate who claims your body as his own, or, worse, acquiring a reputation as a “snitch,” can turn an isolated incident into months of serial gang rape. Just ask Roderick Johnson, a petty thief who was attacked by his roommate shortly after arriving at a Texas prison. Johnson asked to be transferred to a different section of the facility, and got his wish. But news of Johnson’s physical availability had spread throughout the complex—after you’re raped once, you’re marked—and he was soon enslaved by a gang. In addition to passing Johnson around among themselves, Johnson’s new overseers sold his ass and mouth to a variety of clients for $3 to $7, a competitive enough price that it resulted in multiple rapes every day for the eighteen months that Johnson spent in prison. When he went to the authorities, they laughed and told him to “fight or fuck.”

In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.


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