I was learning about and being shocked by the prevalence of rape of women in college for my crisis line training when an essay by Eli Lehrer caught my eye, “Ending Prison Rape.” It’s about the apparent controversy and reluctance to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. I looked into the numbers a bit, and it looks like there is a good chance that there are as many rapes of men in prison as of free women in the US.

(Here are some Bureau of Justice Statistics links, if you want to look into it: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1743, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=840, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/corrections/institutional/prison-rape/welcome.htm)

No one deserves to be raped. Why do we have this weird double standard? Not even the most outrageous comedian would joke about women being raped, but it’s a very common joke about prisoners. Hilarious! It’s like that’s just part of the deal–part of your punishment. If you break the law, you get raped. You gave up your right to not get raped when you did such-and-such.

Most of these men will be getting out, someday. I know very few people really think that there is any rehabilitation going on in prisons, but getting raped is the opposite of rehabilitation. Does anyone seriously think a man can be raped into being a good citizen? That they will treat others better for having been raped? The evidence on trauma does not support this view. Or perhaps we think it’s a way of keeping people from breaking the law. Better not do that, they rape you in there… Lehrer’s essay says that some are saying this is a state’s rights issue, as if states should be able to decide which American men are suitable for raping. That would be fine with me, I suppose, if they unanimously decided that no rape was acceptable, period.

Still, for some perspective, the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s estimated 13% of men in prison raped gives better odds than the 20% of women raped in college. Perhaps there should be a College Rape Elimination Act of 2010.