1700+ incidents of sexual victimization within juvenile justice facilities reported over six-year period 

1700+ incidents of sexual victimization within juvenile justice facilities reported over six-year period 

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that there were 1762 verified incidents of sexual abuse and misconduct, perpetrated by youth and staff combined, in juvenile justice facilities throughout 2013-2018

CW: Sexual Assault

In a new report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in accordance with their obligation under the Prison Rape Elimination Act to administer and review the “Survey of Sexual Violence” (SSV), has found that 1762 confirmed incidents of sexual abuse and misconduct occurred in juvenile justice facilities over the course of 2013-2018. Of this figure, 1263 incidents were perpetrated by other youth, and 499 were perpetrated by staff. The report reveals key findings about the kinds of abuse occurring and how juvenile justice facilities are responding to the abuse. There are notable shortfalls with regards to how many victims receive counseling and treatment, as well as with regards to how many incidents are followed up by legal action. 

The majority of the incidents consisted of “abusive sexual contact,” defined by the BJS as “intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing,” of private body parts. The remaining incidents were “nonconsensual sexual acts,” which the BJS, in alignment with national standards, defines as consisting of penetrative acts. The data, which was collected through the SSV, represents all data collected by state juvenile systems and facilities, and representative samples of locally and privately operated judicial facilities. 

In reality, the figure may be higher than reported, as researchers observed that multiple victims and perpetrators may have been involved in each incident. There is, additionally, the possibility for slight variability in the true number of incidents occurring in non-state systems and facilities.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

The majority of victims overall were male, with male victims comprising 63.2% of the total number of staff-on-youth abuse victims and 62.7% of youth-on-youth abuse victims. The majority of perpetrators in youth-on-youth abuse incidents were also male, at 72.8%. The majority of staff-on-youth abuse perpetrators, however, were female, at 51.1%.

As regards the facility response to these incidents, the data collected reveals that only 50% of victims of staff sexual misconduct incidents received counseling or mental health treatment, with that figure dropping to 36% in relation to staff sexual harassment incidents. Similarly, 48% of victims in youth-on-youth sexual victimization incidents were provided counseling or mental health treatment.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

The data collected only represents substantiated incidents of sexual victimization, which means that the allegation was investigated and determined to have occurred. Nonetheless, staff perpetrators were only reprimanded or disciplined 40% of the time. The staff perpetrators who were then discharged, terminated, or denied contract renewal only represent 32% of total staff perpetrators. 

The report distinguished between incidents of staff sexual misconduct, which includes any consensual or nonconsensual behavior or act of a sexual nature, and incidents of staff sexual harassment, which includes repeated verbal comments or gestures of a sexual nature. Despite incidents of sexual misconduct being considered “the most serious victimizations,” staff perpetrators were disciplined five times more often for sexual harassment incidents (40%) than for sexual misconduct incidents (8%). 

In youth-on-youth sexual victimization situations, approximately 26% of cases led to legal action in both state juvenile systems and local and private juvenile facilities. However, while 37.4% of staff perpetrators faced legal action in local and private juvenile facilities, only 24.4% of staff perpetrators faced legal action in state juvenile systems. The data therefore reveals a discrepancy between both the number of substantiated incidents and the number of perpetrators facing legal action more generally, and the discrepancy between the legal outcomes depending on whether the facility is state operated or privately operated.


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