132.There is a perception amongst many prisoners that to report any type of assault within prison is to ‘lag’ or ‘inform’ against a fellow prisoner,
which in turn places them at risk of greater violence from other prisoners. In some cases, prisoners have been seriously injured in retaliation for reporting a matter to prison authorities. Consequently, prisoners are less likely to report assaults.
133.It is also the case that sexual assaults within prisons are seldom reported to prison authorities. A 2009 study of 150 male ex-prisoners conducted by Murdoch University’s Centre for Social and Community Research in Western Australia34 found that:
•54 per cent said they had knowledge of sexual assault within prison
•23 per cent said that they had been placed under pressure to provide unwanted sexual acts, the majority within the first six months of their sentence
•4 per cent admitted to predatory sexual behaviour
•14 per cent (21 prisoners) said they had been sexually assaulted
•of the 21 prisoners who were sexually assaulted, only eight made an official report to prison authorities.
134.The co-author of this report35, Dr Dot Goulding, had the following to say about the reasons why prisoners do not report sexual assault:
Non-reporting of sexual assault within the prison environment is most often put down to the high levels of personal shame associated with male-to-male rape and, most importantly, a real fear of the prospect of further and escalating violence if such assaults are reported to the authorities.
135.Data obtained from Corrections Victoria shows that there were only 30 reports of alleged sexual assault made by prisoners in 2011-12.
136.At interview, the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders36 (VACRO) raised concerns about the increased risks of sexual assault to vulnerable prisoners as a result of overcrowding. She said:
… [Prisoners] won’t report it [sexual assault] because they’re at high risk if they do. And I guess it’s how you keep people safe. If you’re double and triple bunking or you have got open areas with roll-out beds and you have got young men going into that system, they’re at high risk [of sexual assault].
137.The Chief Executive Officer of VACRO also said:
It [sexual assault] is just hidden. I don’t have a solution for it other than you provide single cells so that people have some ability to protect themselves basically.
34Dr Brian Steels and Dr Dot Goulding, Predator or Prey? An exploration of the impact and incidence of sexual assault in West Australian Prisons, Murdoch University’s Centre for Social and Community Research, Western Australia, November 2009.
35Dr Brian Steels and Dr Dot Goulding, Predator or Prey? An exploration of the impact and incidence of sexual assault in West Australian Prisons, Murdoch University’s Centre for Social and Community Research, Western Australia, November 2009.
36VACRO is a non-government, non-denominational organisation, providing support and information for individuals charged with a criminal offence, offenders, prisoners and their families.