Bars to Justice: The Impact of Rape Myths on Women in Prison
53 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2016
Date Written: April 1, 2016
This article stems from a National Science Foundation-funded interdisciplinary research project that addresses a major gap in understanding the reporting of sexual victimization in prison and the confluence of factors that contribute to the ineffectiveness of internal laws and policies. As a basis of this work, our cohort of scholars in law, social work, and psychology utilized data and personal narratives from the groundbreaking class action lawsuit, Neal v. MDOC, brought on behalf of over 800 female inmates against the State of Michigan. In this article, we identify the most prevalent rape myths we observed from women who were involved in the Neal lawsuit and other similarly situated female inmates across the country. We focus on the impact of rape myths in contexts where prison staff perpetrate sexual violence against female inmates and in particular, how rape myths span the closed prison system-from reporting to grievance outcomes. We explore how these myths shape notions of the "ideal victim," discuss their specific impact, and explain why they matter. We consider how, by virtue of their incarcerated status, it is impossible for women victimized in prison to meet the "ideal victim" standards, ultimately rendering their attempts at seeking justice futile. We hope that our analysis of rape myths in the prison context will inspire changes in prison law and policy by acknowledging and urging the dismantling of these often unforeseen, implicit, and informal barriers to justice.
Keywords: Gender, Violence, Rape, Victim, Crime, Rape Myths, Prison, Class Action, Law
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