Changing the Culture of Prison Rape

“Rape Is Not Part of the Penalty”-Just Detention International

As STSM’s Prison Rape Crisis Advocate (PRCA), I am excited to be among the few rape crisis centers in South Carolina to offer trauma-focused services to incarcerated survivors of sexual assault. STSM provides 24/7 hotline, hospital accompaniment, crisis intervention, staff training and inmate presentation services to the South Carolina Department of Corrections prisons in Richland and Lexington Counties. Although underreported, the reality is prison rape exists. There are a number of barriers that deter sexual assault within the prison system from being reported. These barriers include confidentially, shame and isolation, fear of perpetrator and staff retaliation.  Based on DOJ’s analysis survey data, an estimated 4.4% of prison inmates and 3.1% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization while incarcerated. In a Just Detention blog post dated April 27, 2010, Amanda Hess wrote, “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.” After conversing with with prison staff, some believe most sexual encounters between inmates are “consensual”, despite there being no consensual sex in prison. Could this be the reason why so many cases go unreported within the prison system? Things that make you go “hmmmm”….

Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands is excited to collaborate with the South Carolina Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice to offer services to incarcerated services. Since becoming the agency’s PRCA, I have found that it is important for advocates to research and develop strategies to effectively support the incarcerated population. Because the Department of Corrections is so restrictive, working in this environment requires advocates to be dedicated and passionate about changing the culture of prison rape. An advocate must believe that inmates are first and foremost human, and have a right to receive the best possible care despite their current circumstances. As the PRCA, it is my responsibility to provide incarcerated survivors equal and comprehensive services. At least 95 percent of inmates will be released from prison and bring their medical and emotional issues home with them. Aren’t correctional facilities designed to rehabilitate inmates so once released they can reintegrate back into society able to thrive and be successful? Through staff education and inmate awareness, STSM is committed to changing the culture of Prison Rape!

For more information on STSM’s PRCA, contact Tanyeka Hopkins at


Tanyeka Hopkins

Tanyeka Hopkins is the Prison Rape Crisis Advocate for STSM. As the PRCA, she provides counseling services to incarcerated survivors of sexual violence and trains prison staff to reduce and respond to sexual assault in prison.