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The number of kids being sexually victimized in jail is down – but the data has a big DMV blind spot

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 12/11/2019 Jordan Fischer

The number of youth in juvenile detention facilities reporting being sexually victimized has dropped since 2012, according to a new report from the Department of Justice – but the data may contain blind spots in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

On Wednesday, the DOJ released the 2018 Sexual Victimization Reported by Youth in Juvenile Facilities report, which uses data from the 2018 National Survey of Youth in Custody. According to the report, nationwide, the number of youth in juvenile facilities reporting sexual victimization has dropped from 9.5% in 2012 to 7.1% in 2018.

Of those youth who reported being sexually victimized, nearly 82% said the sexual misconduct came from facility staff. Male youth were more than twice as likely to report being victimized by staff than females were.

The data was collected from 327 youth detention facilities across the country, but response rates varied widely – particularly in states like Maryland and Virginia were researchers required parental consent to interview youth for the survey.

In states where parental consent was not required, the average response rate among all facilities was 71.3%. Where parents did need to sign off, only 33.4% of the youth sampled responded. In Maryland, the response rate was just 23%. D.C. had so few respondents that it was one of six jurisdictions where the researchers didn’t even generate a state-level estimate.

Virginia had 92 youth respondents – almost all at the co-ed Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Chesterfield County. Researchers said 5.1% of youth in detention in Virginia reported sexual victimization. They estimated the actual number statewide could be as low as 1.8% or as high as 13.9%.

In Maryland, where only 26 youth responded, researchers estimated anywhere from 1.2% to 34.7% of youth might be sexually victimized – an indication not that Maryland youth are disproportionately sexually victimized, but rather that researchers had insufficient data to generate a meaningful estimate with any confidence.

In D.C., where researchers sampled youth at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center and the Youth Services Center, they received only 13 responses. That wasn’t enough for them to estimate what D.C.’s rate of sexual victimization might be.


Jordan Fischer is the data reporter for WUSA9. Follow him on Twitter at @JordanOnRecord.


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