RCGV Professors Sheryl Kubiak (Social Work), Deb Bybee (Psychology), Rebecca Campbell (Psychology) and Hannah Brenner (College of Law) recently received a 2-year grant from the National Science Foundation to use an ecological framework to examine reporting of sexual abuse during incarceration.
The U.S. Department of Justice (2012) estimates that there are between 149,200 and 209,400 incidents of sexual victimization annually in prisons and jails, incurring an estimated cost of $52 billion. Yet, less than 8% of those experiencing sexual victimization during incarceration report it to correctional authorities. The goal of this project is to provide relevant social science evidence that will inform both legal policies and institutional practices by: 1) assessing the processes and outcomes associated with reporting externally and pursuing litigation; 2) identifying and understanding the individual- and system-level factors that influence prison reporting; and, 3) assessing processes and case outcomes for those who did report to prison authorities. The primary source of data for this research are the women (n=474), and their legal files, involved in a class action law suit based upon experiences of sexual victimization during incarceration. Multiple methods including a survey, review/analysis of archival legal data, case review, and process mapping will be used to understand decisions regarding reporting including the barriers, consequences, and benefits. The archival review design is advantageous in that it allows for the collection of victimization information without re-traumatizing or endangering vulnerable individuals, maximizes partnerships between social science researchers and legal practitioners, and uses existing data that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain. The ecological framework underlying this research incorporates various levels of social ecology (individual, micro, meso, macro), providing theory that illuminates individual level behavior, as well as the unique aspects of the prison system and policy that inform institutional practices. Examining the processes and outcomes of both internal and external reporting mechanisms can assist prisons nationally in assessing their own institutional practices toward sexual victimization, potentially reducing risk and costs.