Victims of Crime: Male Rape in Prisons

The study carried out in this paper is about victims of male rape in prisons, this is a crime committed against men by other men. The paper will tell us how male rape occurs in prisons and how to deal with the victims of this crime as well as answer some questions and discard some myths that are associated with this crime and its nature.


The research of this subject will be centered on the question, can men be raped? This research will explore the issue of male rape in the united states prisons and theories that are involved in this crime that include racism, power and lack of sexual activity will be looked at and discussed. This question will explore the myths that surround the topic in question and explain how one can prevent such a crime form occurring or how one handles a victim of male rape.

The research will also bring to light the laws that concern the subject of male rape. The findings of this research conclude that racism in prison is against the white prisoner carried out by the black prisoners and this is the major cause of male rape in prison. The research method to be used in this research will include case studies, written articles, books other researches carried out previously about the topic in question.


In reference to Bowker (1981), homosexual rape is a symbol of the situation of men in American prisons. Male rape victims are forced to dedicate their survival to providing services to their rapists for long periods of time after the first defiance due to the environmental nature of the prison. Starchild (1990) states that; the fact about rape in American prisons is and will remain that, blacks persist and absolutely rape whites in prisons this is true based on researches that have been carried out over the last 40 years which come up with the same facts.

It is important to look at the topic of male rape in American prisons so as to find the underlying reasons as to why rape occurs. Prisoners of all races and ethnic groups will benefit from this study as the information will be available to all the people who are affected directly and indirectly. The study will also shade light on the occurrence and rate of rape in prisons which in the end will show that it is an existing issue that calls for social concern. Davis carried out a research in the Philadelphia correctional facility on 3304 inmates on the subject matter and he found out that 156 rapes had been reported through his interviews.

The 156 rapes represent 4.7% of all the inmates held at this facility. According to Bowker (1981); Jones carried out another study In Tennessee state penitentiary and he came up with the following results “three quarters of the inmates remembered at least one rape per month, more than a third remembered at least one rape per week and 30% of all the inmates gave information about rapes occurring more frequently than once a week in the prison’ he concluded that there was homosexual rape that went on at Tennessee State Penitentiary. The research question in this study is whether rape occurs in prison.

Literature review

Toch (1977), further confirmed findings and found out that “rates of previous emotional wavering were higher among victims, possible victims were endured by a ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction and that the fear and outcomes of being a victim included emotional and psychological trauma, this was a major characteristic observed in prisons of the first generation research.

The second generation of prison rape victim research centered solely on race, physical size, vulnerability and sexual orientation Austin et al (2006). Recent studies show that black inmates were most likely to report being victims of staff-initiated, sexually hostile actions, as compared to inmate instigated sexual behavior. On the other hand, non-Hispanic white males were more likely to point out fellow inmates and staff members as aggressors and were likely victimized by their fellow inmates more than black inmates. When rates of convict casualties were put together by all sort of victims and perpetrators, the results were as follows: black 10.2%, Hispanic 10.8% white 8.3%.

The fact that the need for revenge fuels the act of rape of other inmates in prison shows that most of these convicts are angry and they harbor a lot of ill feelings whereby, they see the only way to get rid of these feelings is by inflicting pain on another person. Such an inmate may become rapists as he derives pleasure from inflicting pain, hurting other people as it makes him feel better about himself. Other inmates may want to prove that they are ‘men enough’ and they do this by placing their sexual stamp on other inmates so as to feel that they are in power and they are much better than everyone else.

The fight-or-flight response comes in whereby a victim of sexual assault after an episode of being assaulted they respond differently. This response varies from individual to individual. Some victims may fight their assaulter as a way of protecting themselves and prevent the sexual act from taking place while some victims may flee from their assaulters. Fleeing may involve avoiding close contact wit the assaulter, avoiding places where the assaulter frequents, withdrawing into oneself and not talking to other people, this is a way used by victims to try and forget and block out the assault.

Different races discriminate against each other therefore it is not uncommon to find one race having an upper hand in some situations. In prisons it is the same, the discrimination witnessed between the races is a strong basis for rape and the weaker race often ends up being the victim. Vulnerability due to age, size or personal issues is a reason as to why rape occurs in prison. Assaulters tend to look for weak, susceptible fellow inmates whom they can have their way with without much coercion. Coercion may be in form of threats or intimidations so that one may give into the assault.

Sexual orientation of individuals is a huge factor in prison rape. The fact that there are no prisons for homosexuals or bisexuals, and they have to go to the prisons that are already there where most of the inmate population is heterosexual provides a forum for rape.


The theories surrounding prison rape are not limited to overcrowding, structure of the prison and homosexuality. In reference to Adams (1992), overcrowding is one of the theories that are associated with rape in prison. Overcrowding in prisons was high in the 80’s and 90’s and this is when the issue of black inmates raping white inmates came into the lime light. Studies both quantitative and qualitative show that between the 1960’s and 1990’s black inmates predominantly raped their fellow white inmates.

Ibrahim (1974) argues that the social structure of the prison itself and is a theory of rape. He supports his arguments with the following statements: “ that prison is a one sex closed community that hinders heterosexual activity, unusual sexual activity is accepted among the prisoners, staff and administrators, inadequate work chances and recreation facilities leave too much free time on the hands of the inmates, privacy is not viable with the sharing of sleeping quarters, showers and other amenities, no special cells for people with different sexual orientations, lack of communication with the outside world and its norms offers a provision for different norms and values behind prison walls”. These statements made by Ibrahim carry some truth to them and they are used as theories that explain why rape in prison occurs.

A sociological theory by Adams (1992) looks at homosexuality as a way of dealing with the difficult miserable mood of prison life. It states that some inmates carry such like behaviors from their previous lives before prison and these behaviors are acted upon and they keep growing behind the prison walls.

Case study

The case studies used are parts of letters written by black inmates who survived rape ordeals at the hands of fellow black inmates as well as white inmates to the organization named “Stop Prisoner Rape”. Both the cases are derived from Scarce book entitled male on male rape: the hidden toll of stigma and shame.

I’m grateful (sic) for one thing in all this experience my Brother. It gave a first had knowledge and awareness of what my people went through in the old days of slavery (which we all go thorough in a more subtle from to this very day)and it strengthened my ties with my own people. The actual contest for me was to avoid letting the feelings turn to hatred which would destroy me and present those who afflicted me with serious victory; the destruction of my soul. That hasn’t happened, thank God.

You’re isolated from the important thing: even though we are constantly subjected to homosexual rape we remain heterosexual. I was able to get my identity straightened out with the help of a Black psychologist who patiently worked with me for three years. I also had some racist problems to deal with. Since I’m light skinned the first dudes that raped me were Blacks who thought I was white. After word got out that I was Black they left me alone but then the white dudes took me off. After that I was a “Black” punk and passed on to whites. (Scarce, 46)

Another black inmate who was subjected to prison rape had the following to say:

After being labeled a “nigger punk” and forced into sexual servitude to white men, I realized that my position wasn’t too different from my ancestors and that for the rest of the year I wasn’t any different from a plantation slave (Scarce, 124)

From the two case studies I have learned that rape in prison does occur and that race is a factor to the perpetrators of rape. This also helps us learn that victims of rape ordeals are ashamed because of what they underwent and it takes time to overcome and accept such an ordeal. The fact that both inmates refer to themselves as slaves teaches us that rape is used as a way of expressing authority over someone else.


In conclusion, the research has found out that rape does occur in prisons and something should be done to stop it. Victimization in prisons is based on race, body size, vulnerability and sexual orientation. The theories explained this fact clearly stating that homosexuality is a cause of rape in prisons, the social structure of prisons is another theory that is explained in the research paper by the fact that prisons are one sex facilities that provide conjugal rights to the some prisoners and leave the others without any conjugal visits forcing them to rape their fellow inmates.

The shortcomings of the theories include vagueness as there are no actual facts or case studies to support them the only theory that has supporting statements is the theory by Ibrahim that suggests the social structure of prisons as a reason and cause of rape. The case and findings in this paper match with the social science research by Scrace. It confirms that some prisoners are raped by their fellow prisoners due to their race, the fact that the two black inmates were raped by white inmates and branded degrading names shows that rape in prison is more than not carried out on race biasness.

The case study shows that one of the inmates raped by black inmates then passed on to white inmates and branded a degrading name emphasizes the race issue when it comes to rape. These findings mean that the prison service in the United States needs to improve in these facilities and offer protection to the inmates as well as justice to victims of rape in prisons. The criminal justice needs to open a docket where inmates can file for violations concerning rape in prisons, this situation shows that society is degrading on a daily basis as when a rapist is released from prison he will most often than not rape again.

Some recommendations that can help curb rape in prisons are the provision of privacy in sleeping quarters and bathroom facilities so as to reduce the direct contact of inmates. Also the provision of an avenue where inmates can report such crimes without fear of repercussions will help stop rape in prison facilities.

Limitations in this study included a lot of vague information as many prisoners were not willing to divulge such sensitive information to the interviewers and that most of the references used, are not currently written therefore making some of the information somewhat outdated.


Adams, K. (1992) ‘Adjusting to prison life’, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, 16, 275-359.

Austin J, Fabelo T, Gunter A, McGinnis K.(2006) Sexual violence in the Texas prison system. Austin, TX: The JFA Institute.

Bowker, L.H. (1980) Prison Victimization, New York: Elsevier.

Ibrahim, A.I. (1974) ‘Deviant sexual behavior in men’s prisons’, Journal of Crime and Delinquency, 20, 38-44.

Scacco, A. M. (ed) (1982) Male Rape: A case Book of Sexual Aggressions. New York: AMS Press.

Scarce, M. (2001) Male on Male Rape: The Hidden Toll of Stigma and Shame. Basic Books: Cambridge.

Starchild, A. (1990) Rape of youth in prisons and juvenile facilities, journal of psychohistory 18 (2)145-50.

Toch H. (1977) Living in prison: The ecology of survival. New York: Free Press.

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