A recent lawsuit in Idaho involving five teenage victims of sexual abuse at a state juvenile detention centre highlights the prevalence of sexual victimization of juvenile offenders.
The suit, which was filed in state District Court in Boise on 19 March, alleges that five boys were sexually abused by several female employees. One of the victims, a 16-year-old boy, was reportedly given street drugs by a nurse and forced to have sex with her and a student intern.
According to the Idaho Statesman, nurse Valerie Lieteau and intern Esperanza Jimenez are among a number employees of Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections's Nampa detention centre named in the suit. Unfortunately, the circumstances in the Idaho case are not that uncommon.
A 2013 report by the US Department of Justice on the sexual victimization of youths in juvenile facilities revealed that 89.1% of young prisoners claiming victimization were males reporting sexual activity with female staff. Only 3% were males reporting sexual activity with both male and female staff, the report added.
While a higher number of male teens in detention centres than female teens partially accounts for the high percentage of male victims, there are other reasons, Linda McFarlane of Just Detention International told Mother Jones. However, more information regarding the specifics of the information released by the report is needed.
The Idaho case also highlights another finding made by the 2013 report. According to the estimated 1,390 youth victims in the report, 21.5% were given drugs or alcohol to engage in sexual contact and 20.3% reported experiencing physical force or threat of force.
According to the Statesman, Lieteau provided her victim with drugs both inside and outside the facility and threatened him to remain quiet about the abuse after he was released.
"When you look at the abuse of authority that was described and the use of contraband, that case really just fits in with the pattern that we see," McFarlane added.
The repeated abuse of juvenile prisoners, as seen in the Idaho case, is common among victims of staff sexual misconduct, the report revealed. A majority of victims, 85.9%, reported more than one incident, with 1 in 5 reporting 11 or more incidents.
The survey of youth victims in juvenile detention facilities was conducted between February 2012 and September 2012 in both state-owned or operated facilities and locally or privately owned facilities.