Certainly Effervescent

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Jokes and Complicity In Prison Rape: A Confession

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As I start seeing my hyper-evangelicalism moving further and further away in the rear view mirror, I see more and more mistakes. Many of them are my own, some are on other people. A specific one that I want to talk about is how I, in a small way, am complicit in prison rape.

Because I was so certain of the safety of the world for me, a white Christian Republican, I would not only turn away when I heard prison rape stories, telling myself “Well I’d never end up there”, I would even make jokes about it. The “don’t pick up the soap” joke is old, but I made many, many more than that.

It’s not a comfort, but I will say that I was hardly alone. You could make prison rape jokes in front of your friends’ parents. Some parents would join in. Looking back, it’s astounding how differently the conservative Christian class would treat the same act in two different circumstances: if a Christian man is raped by some pillaging non-Christian army- make a movie, slap a phrase on t-shirts and wristbands, and let’s all have a good cry in the auditorium at weekly chapel or youth group. American man raped in prison-make a joke!

So when I read this:

THE recent report on rape in juvenile facilities from the Bureau of Justice Statistics makes for horrific reading: 12% of juvenile prisoners report being sexually abused, more than 10% of them by staff (the surprising nugget within this subgroup is that 95%—95%!—of that 10% report having been victimised by female staff). Non-heterosexual inmates report a higher rate of abuse by another youth (12.5%) than their heterosexual counterparts (1.3%). Abuse is also not distributed evenly among facilities: at three of them—one each in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey—at least 33% of inmates report being abused, while 18% of facilities surveyed had no reported incidents of sexual abuse.

I become infuriated, but I feel more guilt and shame than anger. If more of us were to refuse to accept rape in prison as inevitable, perhaps something would change. I don’t really know, but I do know that making jokes about it is only encouraging these sick prison staff members to continually abuse children.

If you want to try to fix your past sins (like I do), take a look at prison reform groups. Just Detention International and Amnesty International come to mind.


Written by C.S. Stieber

January 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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