n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Male rape in prison : an overview

Volume 17, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Rape impacts on almost every area of an individual's life, including feelings about oneself and intimate relationships with family and partners (May & Pitts 2000:125-126; No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons, Internet site). The reality is that men do get raped by other men - especially in correctional settings. Judging by the popular media, rape is accepted as a commonplace of imprisonment, so much so that when the topic of prison arises, a joking reference to rape seems almost obligatory. Few members of the public would be surprised by the assertion that men are frequently raped in prison, given rape's established place in the mythology of prison life. Yet serious, sustained, and constructive attention to the subject remains rare (May & Pitts 2000:126; No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons, Internet site). Stephen Donaldson, the late president of the American organisation Stop Prisoner Rape, once noted: "the rape of males is a taboo subject for public discussion ... If ever there was a crime hidden by a curtain of silence, it is male rape." (No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons, Internet site).

More recently, the rape of one male by another was recognized as a more theoretically possibility, although seems to be a taboo subject that society and authorities choose to ignore. This void contributes to the myth that rape is strictly a crime perpetrated by males against females. The recognition that males could also be victims of rape, and that prison rape do occur, can pave the way for rediscovery, custodial intervention, management and prevention strategies to understand and curb this problem (Karmen 2004:272). This article explores male rape, with specific reference to male-on-male prisoner rape, in national and international settings. Relevant literature findings are examined and analysed to inform the reader about this relevant and problematic societal phenomenon.

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