Fewer kids report abuse in juvenile detention centres

BOISE, IDAHO (AP) – A new federal report has found the number of kids who say they have been sexually victimised in juvenile detention centres has dropped across the United States (US) compared with past years. But remarkably high rates of sexual abuse persist in 12 facilities stretching from Oregon to Florida, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report released on Wednesday.

The report analysed data collected during more than 6,000 anonymous interviews last year at nearly 330 juvenile detention facilities. Young people were asked about any forced or coerced sexual contact they experienced, whether by staffers or other kids, ranging from rape to unwanted touching to being shown sexual pictures or movies.

Nationwide, an estimated 7.1 per cent of children in juvenile facilities reported being sexually victimized during the previous 12 months, the report said. That’s a drop compared with the last time the survey was done in 2012, when 9.5 per cent of youth reported being victimised. “Today’s report shows that the juvenile detention system is making long overdue strides in preventing sexual abuse,” Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, an organisation seeking to end sexual abuse in detention, said in a statement. “But even one sexual assault is too many and, as the report makes clear, this violence remains commonplace in youth facilities across the US”

Twelve facilities had dramatically higher rates of sexual victimisation, including three juvenile residential centres in Florida, three in Texas, and one each in Oregon, Arkansas, Idaho, Georgia, Ohio and New Jersey, according to the report.

At the Liberty Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment in Florida, just over 26 per cent of youth reported being victimised in the past 12 months. Similarly high rates – about 22 per cent and 21 per cent – were reported at the Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Programme and Gulf Academy, both in Florida.