Youth convicted of certain crimes may face time in juvenile detention centers – places meant to educate, guide, and support young people in the hope of preventing future criminal acts. Unlike the adult justice system that aims to punish, the goal of the juvenile system is to help youth succeed as productive members of society. Unfortunately, cases of sexual abuse by guards can make juvenile detention centers cause more harm than good. Come to Estey & Bomberger for legal counsel from skilled juvenile detention center sexual abuse lawyers on this sensitive and complex subject in California.
Facts and Figures on Juvenile Detention Center Sexual Abuse
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 1,720 youth around the nation reported one or more incidents of sexual abuse by staff or another youth in the 12 months prior to the investigation. This number represents about 9.5% of all adjudicated youth in juvenile detention facilities. The majority (7.7%) reported incidents involving facility staff members. The two highest-rate facilities, the now closed Paulding Regional Detention Center in Georgia and Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio, had sexual victimization rates of at least 30%. Keep in mind that these statistics only reflect reported incidents of abuse.
Male youth reported higher numbers of sexual abuse by staff in juvenile facilities than females (8.2% vs. 2.8%). A whopping 89.1% of youth who reported staff victimization were males reporting abuse by female staff. This is likely due to the much greater number of males in correctional facilities than females around the country. However, a greater number of females reported sexual abuse by other youth (5.4% vs. 2.2%). Black youth reported a higher rate of abuse by facility staff than white or Hispanic youth.
Some of this gender discrepancy is due to the overwhelmingly large proportion of male inmates in the American juvenile detention system. Nevertheless, the report highlights a troubling trend in our justice system: the systematic and repeated sexual abuse of minors by juvenile detention center staff. In mid-2015, five juvie hall inmates sued the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. One of the detention center’s nurses had given a 16-year-old inmate drugs, and then taken him to her home and had sex with him. An adult female student intern at the same detention center abused multiple boys, telling them that she had a “personal sex addiction.” More than one of the abused teenage boys wrote letters to the juvenile detention center’s director asking for help, but the director did nothing. She told one of the boys that he would need to go through the “proper channels” to lodge a complaint against a staff member.
In a juvenile detention center, as elsewhere, sexual predators’ modus operandi are the same. According to the DOJ report, juvie hall staff will often groom victims before molesting them. Two out of three juvenile detention sex abuse victims reported receiving preferential treatment or material gifts from their abusers. Most youth reported repeated incidents (85.9%). Nearly one in five reported 11 or more incidents. The same number (one in five) also reported physical force or the threat of physical force during the sexual assault incident. Staff members gave drugs or alcohol to youth to coerce them into engaging in sexual acts in 21.5% of cases.
With numbers like this, it’s clear that youth sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers is a highly prevalent problem around the U.S. Learning the warning signs of abuse in your child can help you put an end to these incidents.
How to Stop Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Detention Centers
The first step in helping your child escape from a sexual abuse situation is to detect that the problem is occurring. During all communications with your child while he or she is in a juvenile detention center, look for signs of abuse or sexual molestation. These can include:
- Behaviors similar to someone intoxicated with drugs or alcohol
- Refusal to talk about his or her treatment at the facility
- Sudden changes in behavior, including aggression, irritability, or fear
- Self-doubt, shame, guilt, or lack of self-confidence
- Adult-like sexual language, writing, or drawings
- Fear when around certain facility staff members
- Physical signs of abuse, such as unexplained bruising or injuries
- Getting into trouble for acting out when you know this behavior is unusual
Time in a juvenile detention facility can be difficult and emotionally taxing for youth in many ways. The presence of a warning sign may not be cause for alarm. Multiple signs, however, or clues your child gives you about sexual abuse during conversations, can be red flags for criminal activity. Talk to law enforcement as soon as possible once you suspect sexual abuse. Then, seek help from a juvenile detention center sexual abuse attorney.
Speak to Estey & Bomberger About Your Child’s Abuse
When you don’t know where to turn, come to Estey & Bomberger for help with childhood sexual abuse cases. We have years of experience handling such cases, and we combine aggressive litigation with empathetic representation for your child and family. We have what you need to pursue justice for your child’s terrible ordeal. For more information, contact us to talk during a free consultation.