Originally posted on February 4, 2011
Early this week the Justice Department released its draft for the regulations to combat prison rape. This comes on the heels of reports from last year about the severity of sexual violence in adult and juvenile prisons. The regulations closely follow the recommendations made by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. However, there are still some problems:
The department concluded, for instance, that PREA addresses not just rape but all manner of sexual abuse in correctional facilities – an interpretation resisted by some corrections officials. It calls for the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse; maintains prohibitions on cross-gender pat and strip searches of juveniles; requires a facility to designate an on-site PREA coordinator; and calls for background checks of prospective corrections officers to screen for past incidents of inmate abuse.
But the department punted on several crucial issues – a particularly frustrating development given that it had the benefit of a thorough and credible report from the commission. The department failed to articulate rules for independent audits of facilities and did not come to any conclusions about how often such audits should take place. (The commission recommendation: every three years.) Such evaluations are crucial in determining whether facilities are complying with the law’s mandate. Perhaps one reason the Justice Department had a hard time with audits is that it also failed to specify what criteria should be used to determine whether an institution is in compliance with the law.
Administration officials argue that the draft regulations are just that – preliminary proposals to be fleshed out once more information is gathered; the department will be accepting public comments for approximately two months. Some delay and duplication are beyond the administration’s control. But it is perturbing that the department has not made more progress in answering these critical questions. Didn’t it miss a congressional deadline in 2010 because of protracted “listening sessions” in which it tilled much of the same ground already worked by the commission? As it now stands, the department will probably not finalize its rules until the end of the year.
The Justice Department’s procrastination may have more to do with the politics governing the prison industry than anything else. Prisons bring in a lot of money, and the industry effectively lobbies for its position. The changes might get made, but it seems more likely that NPREC’s recommendations will get a few more crucial chips knocked out of it before anything passes. On a side note, NPREC’s recommendations focus mostly on female victims despite males making up the majority of those raped in prison. From my skimming of the 300 page document I saw no mention of female-on-male sexual assault, but it might be included in portions of more in-depth commentary. It just seems odd that this was not a focus (although male-on-female sexual assault was) considering that the reports released last year stated that both adult men and juvenile males reported large rates of sexual violence at the hands of female staff.
However, that is not the point of this post. This is:
Feminist blogger figleaf wrote a post attacking men’s groups using the above news:
One of the few bright spots in the anti-feminist “men’s rights” movement is their frequently-voiced concern about male rape victims. And when they bring it up it’s often in the context of social indifference to male rape in prisons. So you’d think the men’s-rights-o-sphere would be all over this piece of good news about prison rape.
One of the more irritating tendencies many feminists have is the desire to delegitimatize men’s groups. Whenever there is an issue like prison rape that makes the news, feminists are very quick to claim that because no men’s group discussed that particular news report, all men’s groups must be faking concern about the issue. It is a silly tit-for-tat argument meant as retort to men’s groups calling feminists out on feminists ignoring and marginalizing male victims of violence. People should understand that someone not addressing every single news report about an issue they care about does not mean the person’s concern for that issue is disingenuous. Yet, that is the conclusion figleaf draws:
In fact, since the PREA was passed in 2003 and the Justice Department is only just barely getting its foot-dragging ass in gear, you’d think that men’s rights groups would have been all over the DOJ for the last seven years to move more quickly.
Instead it’s been mostly feminist groups doing the actual activism.
That is a claim that I think justifies some support because over the past seven years that I have advocated for male victims I have not seen any support or discussion about any type of sexual violence against males coming from prominent feminist groups, nor have I encountered many feminists engaging in any actual activism on behalf of male victims. Figleaf provides no evidence that only feminist groups advocate for male victims, and that is something I would like to see given that countless non-feminist men and women push rape centers to train volunteers to help male victims, include information for them, and to stop hanging up on or accusing male victims of being rapists. Many of these people push for funding for organizations to help male victims or to change legal statutes and practices so that those who prey on male victims, particularly women, do not want away with slaps on the wrist. These same people write to media outlets that frame sexual violence against boys as “affairs” or “trysts” rather than as rape. Many of them spend time trying to convince prisons, boarding schools, clubs, and religious organizations to address the sexual violence that occurs in their facilities or communities. As male survivor and an advocate I find it insulting for figleaf to give feminists credit for my and other male survivors’ and advocates’ hard work.
She He goes on to write:
It seems to me that if just one out of every 100 men who’s ever typed the words “but men get raped too” in a feminist-friendly comment or forum thread had instead contacted their Congressional representative or the DOJ things might have moved a little faster.
That was nothing more than a rather tactless attack on advocates for male victims. I am rather thick-skinned and I understand that feminists harbor a bias against male victims and their advocates, but all the same I would appreciate, as a member of both groups, that I not get attacked for calling out feminists on their biased framing of sexual violence.
Secondly, figleaf makes a rather gross presumption. A person can take issue with feminists and also advocate for male victims. They can do both at the same time without telling anyone that they are doing that. Figleaf again provides no evidence showing those men never engage in any activism, meaning that all she he did was insult them, and I think is worth noting that many, if not most, of them are rape victims. Such a comment essentially throws that person’s experiences in their face.
Figleaf may object to the criticism, yet feminists positioned themselves as the gatekeepers to sexual violence advocacy. For feminists not to discuss sexual violence against males or treat it as some anomaly unworthy of attention contradicts their claim about wanting to stop all sexual violence. That makes figleaf’s post all the more ironic. She He is calling out a group of people for not addressing a particular news report about an issue they claim they are concerned about (and being rather smug about it) while objecting to people calling feminists out for not addressing a particular issue they claim to be concerned about.
What I find interesting, although unsurprising, is that the post is not about the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Instead, it is an attack on those advocating for reform. That perfectly explains why most male survivors and advocates criticize feminists on this issue. Feminists claim to side with male victims and their advocates, yet feminists insult them and use those men’s experiences to attack them. Here is a thought: if figleaf really cares about the enforcement of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, she he should write a post about that rather than one attacking male victims and their advocates for not discussing a particular news report.
However, on this point I agree with her him:
If you’re interested in commenting on the proposed rules here’s the DOJ contact information.
What she listed on her site is no longer correct. The current link states that the deadline for making comments is April 4, 2011. I urge anyone concerned with prison rape to first read both reports (yes, it will take some time, but you have three weeks) and then leave a civil comment on the regulations site.