The Sexist

Prison Rape and the Problem With Statistics

In a recent Sexist thread, a couple of commenters got to arguing a grim set of statistics. The question at hand: Which group experiences more rapes, men in prison or women outside of prison?

In order to resolve this question, one commenter referred to the "Prison Rape" Wikipedia page, which reads: "Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. statistics indicate that there are more men raped in U.S. prisons than non-incarcerated women similarly assaulted."

I've seen this comparison quoted on other threads, but I've never seen any specific stats to back it up—and the Wiki page doesn't refer to any, either. I'm a big fan of the work of the organization to which the stats are attributed—Just Detention International, formerly Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc.—so I reached out to JDI for some insight. JDI program director Cynthia Totten had this to say:

JDI does not compare numbers of people raped in society vs. prison as a way to show how frequent rape in detention is—doing so would be problematic and troubling on many levels. Rape is devastatingly common both inside and outside prison walls. The best academic research finds that 20 percent of inmates in men’s prisons are assaulted while rates in women’s institutions vary, with one in four inmates raped in the worst facilities. According to recent government studies by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 60,500 inmates reported being sexually abused at their current federal and state prison in the preceding year alone, while 25,000 jail detainees were victimized in just the prior six months; we can realistically say that at least 100,000 inmates are raped in prisons and jails each year, without considering juvenile detention or immigration detention. Add to this the fact that annual jail intakes are 17 times the population in a jail on any given day, and this number likely represents only the tip of the iceberg. Regardless of custody status, rape and sexual assault traumatizes millions of people in the United States every year, and we are committed to putting an end to this violence, no matter where it occurs.

I wholeheartedly agree with Totten: These sorts of comparisons are profoundly unhelpful.

First of all, until a reliable study is undertaken to directly answer this question, it is scientifically unsound to compare studies that employ different methods, definitions, and standards in determining the prevalence of rape in different communities. Second, these comparisons are often employed solely to derail conversations about addressing the problem of rape. Comparing statistics about the prevalence of rape in different communities ignores the fact that rapes are happening, even one is too many, and all rapists need to be stopped. When you say, "You shouldn't be addressing rape against women in society, you should be addressing rape against male prisoners," you stop a productive conversation about ending rape. When you say, "You shouldn't be addressing rape against male prisoners, you should be addressing rape against women in society," you stop a productive conversation about ending rape.

What Totten—a person who has dedicated her career to ending prison rape—is saying is that we should be encouraging conversations about sexual violence against anyone, and supporting all organizations committed to ending this violence everywhere. It's important to note, however, that these conversations won't all be happening at the same time, and addressing one form of rape in no way detracts from the task of ending rape in all its other forms. The work of ending prison rape is going to take a vastly different approach than the work of ending acquaintance rapes, or child molestation, or elder abuse, or the rape of LGBTQ victims, or male victims, or female victims. That's OK—as long as we also understand that the work of encouraging all of these conversations about all different forms of rape will not be accomplished by jostling for position. As one commenter wrote on another rape stats argument: "I can’t believe you all are arguing over this. Some of you are essentially angry for not including everyone, while missing the point: RAPE = BAD. Do we all agree on that point? Okay! Good."

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Just Detention International has attempted to edit the Prison Rape Wikipedia page with updated information—for one thing, the organization hasn't been called "Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc." for a few years now—but the erroneous and unsourced statement has since been restored to the page.

Photo via amandabhslater, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Melissa

    And speaking of putting ideology over evidence, what does it say about you that you continue to argue without even bothering to read our counterarguments?

  • Eo


    Im well aware that according to the Koss definitions of rape that those people were raped.

    LSD framed myself and tasha as rapist and victim and according to the Koss definition she is correct, we are both, according to the Koff definitions our own serial rapists and victims even though neither of us feel that we were victimised or damaged and we are in a healthy fun relationship... which is great for people who want to artifically inflate male on female rape figures, but its not so great for the innocent men who are being stereotyped as rapists or the other victims that are buried beneath inflated male on female rape figures.

    So, is that clear? I understand perfectly how according to Koss that these subjects, myself and tasha are rape victims..... the point is that none of us agree that we are.

    The Koss study and campus rape culture is violent anti-male propaganda which seeks to stereotype all or most men men with a minority of rapists.

  • Melissa

    "LSD framed myself and tasha as rapist and victim"

    Stop saying things that aren't true. Any literate person can read the thread for him/herself and see that that simply isn't the case.

    "we are both, according to the Koff definitions our own serial rapists and victims "

    Again, absolutely not true. According to the Koss definition, in order to be rape, one of you would have to have not wanted the sex, and the other person would have had to've forced the non-consenting party. Yes, alcohol can be involved IF the element of force used by the rapist is the fact that the victim is incapacitated by alcohol and physically unable to fight back. If this is not the case with you and Tash, then you obviously would not fall under Koss' definition of rape.
    AGAIN, you should probably read things before you attempt to debunk them. Otherwise, you come off looking very silly. You could keep coming back here and wasting your time arguing about this, OR you could take 2-3 minutes to actually read the questions on the Koss survey. This will be all the evidence you need to know that what you do with Tash is NOT rape, as long as you both want it and both consent to it.

  • Eo

    Look melissa.

    This is the question that drew in the most rape victims.

    "Have you given in to sex play (fondling, kissing, or petting, but not intercourse) when you didn't want to because you were overwhelmed by a man's continual arguments and pressure?"

    To this question, 53.7 percent responded affirmatively, and they were counted as having been sexually victimized.

    Most people that have been in a relationship accomadate their partner when they are not in mood, people of all genders and sexualities are sexually assertive and like the other questions, its a question that many men and lesbians would also answer in the affirmitive.
    Feminist "research" loads the results by only asking women the questions and then it presents the results in a vacume.

    And these factoids then become "official" and when they are nothing but inaccurate memes.

    If you want to talk about rape stats. you need to be looking at non politically motivated, non polemic, independent studies on both sexes and all sexualities victimisation.. once you do that you wont have a gynocentric and prejudiced view on the subject.

  • Eo

    Sorry about the double post...


    Here are some resources on abuse factoids and myths.

    Factoid - According to Government estimates, approximately
    987,400 rapes occur annually in the US.

    Truth - This statement was made in HR 739. The actual number of rapes reported by the FBI is 90,427, one-tenth the number claimed in the bill.54

    Myth - One in four women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape.

    Truth - This claim by Mary Koss has been criticized on many grounds. For example, only 27% of women classified by
    the researchers as rape victims actually viewed
    themselves as victims of rape, and 42% of the putative
    victims later had sex with their “attackers.”

    Myth - Since 2001, rapes have actually increased by 4

    Truth - This claim was made in HR 739. The FBI reports that female rapes have fallen dramatically since the 1970s.From 2001 to 2005 the rate of rapes continued to decline (0.6/1,000 women in 2001 to 0.5/1,000 women in

    Factoid - 89 percent of rapes are perpetrated against female victims.

    Truth - This claim from HR 739 ignores the problem of male
    rape in prisons. A Human Rights Watch report cites a
    study that found 140,000 male inmates are raped each
    year in the United States, a number that is higher than
    the FBI report of female rapes.

    Factoid - Almost 50 percent of sexual assault survivors lose their jobs or are forced to quit in
    the aftermath of the assaults.

    Truth - This statistic from HR 739 is an incidental finding from a non-representative sample of 27 women in the Atlanta,GA area.58 This figure has never been replicated.

    Factoid - One in four teenage girls has been in a relationship in which she was pressured into
    performing sexual acts by her

    Truth - This claim was made in HR 590. The actual percentages are 11.9% of teenage girls and 6.1% of teenage boys.

    There is a good paper on how feminist studies skew the results further up the thread.

    Look Melissa, you are going to take feminist information as the "gospel truth" and you will argue that it is in the blind faith... so there is no point in this, your mind is already closed to information that doest conform to the ideology.

  • Melissa

    You say this:

    “Have you given in to sex play (fondling, kissing, or petting, but not intercourse) when you didn’t want to because you were overwhelmed by a man’s continual arguments and pressure?”

    And this:

    "Most people that have been in a relationship accomadate their partner when they are not in mood" though they refer to the same thing. They do not.
    Do a lot of people in relationships pretend to be in the mood for the sake of their partner every once in a while? Sure. They do it voluntarily, out of love/respect for their partner. Because they like seeing their partner happy, and like giving their partner pleasure. This is not even CLOSE to finally giving in because your partner won't stop coercing you until you obey.

    "Hm, he's in the mood but I'm not. I think I'll "take one for the team" tonight, because I'm pretty sure he did the same for me last week" =/= "God, I don't know how to get out of this. He drove me here, I don't have a car, I don't have a way to get away from him, he looks really scary AND he says he'll dump me if I don't!"

    That you find it so difficult to see the HUGE difference between being "overwhelmed by a man's pressure" and "accommodating your partner in a relationship" is astounding.

    "If you want to talk about rape stats. you need to be looking at non politically motivated, non polemic, independent studies on both sexes and all sexualities victimisatio"

    Fine. Then you'd better stop looking at MRA sites.

    Myth/truth #1: the first number claims only to be an "estimate." The second number refers to the number of FBI reports. Since I'm sure even you would agree that a lot of rapes do NOT get reported to the authorities, then there is absolutely no reason why those two numbers would be the same. Anyone who sees the second stat as debunking the first needs to check his/her reading comprehension skills.

    Myth/truth #2: We've already debunked this extensively.

    Myth/truth #3: Who cares? Your truth may be true. If rapes have indeed declined in the last 10 years, that's great, but what are you trying to say? That that's enough? That the number of rapes has decreased a little bit, therefore feminists shouldn't worry about it anymore? I'm not really sure what you're trying to prove with this.

    Myth/truth #4: OMG read the article that started this whole discussion.

    Myth/truth #5: I agree that that isn't anywhere near a sufficient sample size. However, statistics aside, don't you think that people being fired from/having to quit jobs because of rape/sexual assault is something know...shouldn't happen? Whether it's 50% of victims or only 5%, we should still strive to punish the rapists rather than the victims. (Anecdotally, I had to quit a job after a sexual assault. I worked at an overnight job where I had to spend the whole night alone with one other coworker. This was fine for almost a year, when one night a coworker held me down and felt my breasts, even as I tried desperately to escape. After that I was too afraid to ever work with him again, and too afraid to report what had happened to the police. My only choice was to quit.)

    Myth/truth #6: Again...and you think this isn't a bad thing? Even if your statistics are true, they're still pretty damn horrifying. I mean, what do you expect people to say? "Only 12 percent of girls and 6 percent of boys, well THAT'S no big deal!"

  • Eo


    I said

    “If you want to talk about rape stats. you need to be looking at non politically motivated, non polemic, independent studies on both sexes and all sexualities victimisation”

    You said

    "Fine. Then you’d better stop looking at MRA sites".

    MRA site DO cite non politically motivated, non polemic, independent studies on both sexes and all sexualities victimisation, there is an agenda to diseminate and protect against feminist abuse propaganda using independent, non polmic studies but no agenda to produce actual false research.

    If feminist sources were quoting the non politically motivated, non polemic, independent studies on both sexes and all sexualities victimisation instead of the skewed polemic studies that they do this argument wouldnt be happening, because we'd be in agreement.

    Once a group starts using alledged sex crimes to stereotype another group and impliment polemic policies accordingly, be it nazis verses jews, american racists verses black men during the lynching era, religious zelots verses gay men, islamists verses women or feminists verses white heterosexual men the line between advocacy and hate has been crossed and that is largely why the mens movement has mobilised.

    Whether you back the false information and suppress the true information is up to you entirely but from here on in its not going to be as easy to use factiods and polemic studies to slander hetereosexual men while covering up for all the other groups and denying false allegations as it was.

  • Melissa

    Oh yes. A movement whose landmark study claimed that FORTY FIVE PERCENT of rape reports are false by classifying all of the following as "false reports":

    -cases where the police deemed the evidence insufficient to prosecute
    -cases where the accuser withdrew his/her complaint, regardless of the reason
    -cases the police may have (and may well have, because it's extremely common for police to do this, although we'll never know for sure, because Kanin never released which police station he used as his incredibly small sample size, so NO ONE HAS EVER BEEN ABLE TO VERIFY HIS FINDINGS) arbitrarily decided are false and either terrified the accuser into recanting, or sent him/her on his/her way without an opportunity to go to trial.

    Why yes, such a movement is a beacon of objectivity, lack of political motivation, and non-skewed results.

  • Eo


    I dont know what you're talking about "landmark study"?

    I think that you are talking about the 41% that admitted that their rape accusations were false recorded by an independent researcher, thats not a "landmark study" its just one study on the methodology of one police station that put a lot of its resources into investigating rape at both ends, catching rapists and weeding out false accusers. If the results conflict with the ideology, that women dont make false claims it doesnt in reality constitute an attack on the ideology, or a skewed study undertaken by shady pro-rape characters, its just an outcome that contradicts the politically correct construct of how things are.
    (btw, heres Wendy McElroy suggesting a more paletable figure

    Rape culture is hung on one "landmark study" that was followed by others including the same 2 ambiguous questions that Koss herself has admitted is , its a mistake to suppose that the mrm is using the same methodology, the mrm use many independent studies.

    For example - there are 100s of studies showing gender symmetry in IP /DV yet still insists that IP /DV is in the main gendered and political, as per the ideology the pov is not a reflection of reality, its just a reflection of a political construct.

  • Eo


    that link is not working -

    "The Eugene Kanin study did show up a 41% false reporting rape and an FBI report showed that 25% of suspects are excluded by DNA testing).

    Neither here nor there, neither are "landmark studies", but we do know that the rate is higher than 2% and that innocent men can go to jail where they face torture and rape as punishment.

    We also know that feminism works to supress the reality that false accusations happen in significant numbers and seeks to remove legal defence for men accused of rape.

  • squirrely girl


    You write, "The Koss study and campus rape culture is violent anti-male propaganda which seeks to stereotype all or most men men with a minority of rapists."

    Violent?! Really? Violent. Hmmm...

    And, "We also know that feminism works to suppres (sic) the reality that false accusations happen in significant numbers and seeks to remove legal defence (sic) for men accused of rape."

    Reality check - even when you're presented with material that contradicts your delusion (e.g., Lisak's work, pretty much everybody's posts here) you STILL take issue with the mere concept of rape and immediately turn around and find some new "problem" to wave in the air as "evidence" of some evil feminist cult and plot to "get teh menfolk." WAKE UP - THE FEMINISTS ARE NOT OUT TO GET YOU!

    You want to "defend" MRA sites and spend an inordinate amount of time and energy extensively regurgitating "research" from individuals who have been ostracized by their own academic communities and had their research methodology ripped apart REPEATEDLY. Yet, when people post RELEVANT criticisms or contradictory findings to the "research" you repost, you either ignore the comments altogether, call them "personal attacks", or find some new problem with feminists to make up for it.

    You project your delusion onto the comments of other posters and even when people cut and paste from previous posts you STILL maintain your delusion, albeit "reframing" it a little for the current post. While pretty much everybody else here has made a good faith effort to acknowledge and respond to your points and even ceded when appropriate, you blatantly REFUSE to listen to any reasonable argument that anybody else puts forth unless it's praising YOUR position. Despite the ENTIRE blog post with the opinion of a PROFESSIONAL in this particular area, that “these comparisons are often employed solely to derail conversations about addressing the problem of rape,” you CONTINUE with the barrage of statistics to both make these comparisons and berate feminists.

    That's not "debate"... that's the behavior of a petulant child... and delusional people.

    I truly believe there is no study that has been done or ever will be done for that matter that you will be "happy" with unless it tells you EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.

    Granted, from a professional standpoint, I do appreciate that this IS how delusions manifest and perpetuate themselves, hence the reason they're so difficult to treat. But it's always just a little sad to see it in action. While, I would never presume to make a real diagnosis without actually meeting with a person first, I think there's ample evidence to support my "suspicions" that you're not the "average troll" but rather have some other psychological issues and as such I will be heeding the sage advice from other posters to just stop responding to you as it only further fuels your delusion that the feminists are out to get you. It's my SINCERE hope that you'll take the lack of response from posters here as a sign that you should move on... and maybe get some help.

  • Eo

    squirrely girl

    Im working off a mountian of empirical evidence that contradicts a faith based ideological view point and you have just described the state of being of an ideological view point and projected that on to me.

    You've also projected the characteristics of feminist research on to the likes of Murray A. Straus, Richard J. Gelles, Eugene J. Kanin, Cristine Hoff Sommers and others attacking them personally and not provided a reason.

    These people contradict your ideological POV and you claim their research has been ripped apart repeatedly... thats another projection, their research obliterates feminist research. They might well have been subject to persoanl attacks for not publishing studies that arent skewed to the ideological POV but personal attacks arent the same thing as "ripping apart".

    Please, "rip apart" these two papers, one by Gelles on skewed political and ideology driven "research" and the other by Straus methods used to conceal and skew data used by feminists without attacking the authors or myself on a personal, professional level or crying rape.

    Show me how Straus and Gelles (google them if you dont know who they are) are disgraced and rejected by anyone bar ideological feminists.

    Im happy to patiently back up everything I say with empirical evidence, can you provide evidence that Murray A. Straus, Richard J. Gelles, Eugene J. Kanin, Cristine Hoff Sommers et al are academically incompetent and rejected as you claim? No you can't, perhapse you will give them an online quack diagnosis?

    Find a way to debate honestly, of you have a specific problem with something ive said or a study Ive posted, come back with something other than vitriol or slander.

    A study or POV that differs from your ideology is not a personal attack nor does it justify personal attacks nor do persoan attacks or slander "win" debates.

  • Tasha


    LSP's previous post did sort of allude to Eo and I being rapist and victim respectively because we do, occasionally engage in sexual activities when drunk. Clearly this is not the case and Eo IS right when he says this is a healthy and fun relationship---but there are a lot of men and women out there engaging in same,who are second guessing themselves, their activities and their relationships because the overall belief (for regular, everyday people who dont spend days blogging or pouring over the academic journals etc) is that if the WOMAN (not the man) has had ONE drink, or a bit of any other substance, that she can legally charge him with rape if she later regrets the activity. Maybe that's not accurate, but I'm telling you, the average Joe sure does believe it. You can counter this with "well if men are so concerned, they should research it themselves" or "then if they doubt their partners sobriety, best to not have sex then"...and maybe those are good points, and I dont disagree with them in theory. But how many 20 year old college students are going to do that? And look at the examples----Duke? Hofstra? Good God!
    The message regarding these situations is unclear on the whole.