"[I]n 1991 I was raped by the Arizona "Aryan Brotherhood" a prison gang. I didnt tell the guards, I was scared & alone. The guards knew about it, because they told me they are going to move me, & so they did, but to a worst prison. Where I got into it with more "ABs". . . . I am a 26 year old White Boy who don't have anybody, but a lot of anger! . . . . Back to a little more about my Rape. The guys didnt get caught in the Act somebody told the guards and they asked me if I was alright. Then moved me . . . . I wanted to go back to the yard and kill them that did it!"(329)

[...] Some prisoners have confessed to taking violent revenge on their abusers, inspired both by anger and by a desire to escape further abuse. The best and sometimes the only way to avoid the repetition of sexual abuse, many prisoners assert, is to strike back violently. Simply put, to prove that one is not a victim, one must take on the characteristics of a perpetrator. Since violence, in the prison setting, is almost a synonym for strength and virility, a readiness to use violence confirms one's "manhood."

A Texas inmate explained the dynamic in the following way:

"It's fixed where if you're raped, the only way you [can stop the abuse is if] you rape someone else. Yes I know that's fully screwed, but that's how your head is twisted. After it's over you may be disgusted with yourself, but you realize you're not powerless and that you can deliver as well as receive pain. Then it's up to you to decide whether you enjoy it or not. Most do, I don't."(330)

Summing up the situation in a phrase, he emphasized: "People start to treat you right once you become deadly."

Numerous prisoners have described to Human Rights Watch the aggressive postures that they have adopted as a safeguard against rape. By reacting violently to the slightest show of disrespect, inmates believe that they can avoid the slippery slope that leads to rape. A quick resort to violence is, in their view, necessary to prove that they are ready and equipped to protect themselves.


"I was sexually assaulted by 4 inmates (black). I went to staff. I was shipped to another unit. I refused to go to my housing assignment due to I was being put back into a life threatening condition. So I started to threaten the first black inmate I came into contact with. I was put in prehearing detention. That's September 15, 1995. I started possessing a weapon and threatening black inmates. That was the only way staff would keep me locked up in a single cell.(334)"

Interestingly,[...] corrections officials frequently urge inmates to employ violence to defend themselves from attack. Past studies have found that prison staff counsel prisoners to respond to the threat of sexual assault by fighting the aggressor.(335) Inmates have often reported to Human Rights Watch that guards warn them, "no one is going to babysit you"--letting them know that they have to "act like a man," that is, to react violently to aggressive sexual overtures.

Another contributing factor to violence may be the acute shame that victims commonly experience. Indeed, psychiatrist and prison expert James Gilligan, describing a theory of violence, argues that shame is the primary underlying cause of the problem.(336) Driven by shame, men murder, rape, and punish others. In describing prisons as fertile territory for the shame-violence relationship, Gilligan's observations are consistent with prisoners' reports of their experiences. As one Vermont inmate told Human Rights Watch,

"When I came out of prison, I remember thinking that others knew I had been raped just by looking at me. My behavior changed to such cold heartedness that I resented anyone who found reason to smile, to laugh, and to be happy."(337) This man later committed rape after release from prison in what he said was a kind of revenge on the world. K.J., another inmate with whom Human Rights Watch is in contact, similarly believes that it was the trauma of being raped while in jail--unrelieved by any psychological counseling--that led him to later commit rape himself. "I was just locked in shame," he said, explaining the downward spiral that culminated in his rape of two women. "It seemed like rape was written all over my face."(338 )

The anger, shame and violence sparked by prison rape--though it may originate in the correctional setting--is unlikely to remain locked in prison upon the inmate's release. As one prisoner emphasized, reflecting upon correctional officials' failure to prevent several rapes in his institution:

[The guards here believe that] the tougher, colder, and more cruel and inhuman a place is, the less chance a person will return. This is not true. The more negative experiences a person goes through, the more he turns into a violent, cruel, mean, heartless individual, I know this to be a fact.(339)

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/report6.html#_1_41