Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! We would be happy to work with you to provide free training, via video conference (like Skype) or webinar, which is tailored to meet the needs of your staff and or volunteers. We can also provide in-person, onsite training if your organization can cover travel expenses for our trainers. Please fill out the training and technical assistance request form to let us know of your specific training needs.
The Resource Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse Behind Bars is a unique state-by-state guide to counseling, health, advocacy, and legal resources for survivors who are still incarcerated, those who have been released, and loved ones on the outside who are searching for ways to help.
The aim of this guide is to help the vastly underserved population of prisoner rape survivors connect with organizations that are willing to provide them with the services they need. We try to keep the guide as up-to-date as possible.
If your agency would like to be added to the guide, please complete the form found at http://svy.mk/1LYMLFg. Your information will be added to the guide within one month.
The full guide can be found at http://justdetention.org/service/.
If you have any questions about the guide, please contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocates, especially those who have little or no experience with prisoners, may worry about their safety when working with incarcerated survivors. While advocates should certainly take precautions when providing services within a detention facility, they are likely to find that incarcerated survivors are no more dangerous to serve than survivors in the community.
It can be helpful to get some training on working with incarcerated survivors, so you can talk through your concerns. You can also work with corrections officials to organize an orientation and a tour of the facility for your staff. Corrections officials are responsible for protecting visitors, and they take this role seriously. The vast majority of inmates are grateful — and often surprised — to get outside help, and treat visitors with respect and appreciation. Services for inmates are rare in detention facilities and it is unlikely that a prisoner would do anything to compromise this help.
Please see the section Ensuring the Safety of Advocates (page 16) in Hope Behind Bars to read more on this issue.
Start with an assessment of what you can provide. Many agencies are reluctant to offer services to incarcerated survivors because they cannot offer all of the same services that they offer to survivors in the community. While all survivors deserve the same quality of care, remember that some support is better than no support. It is far better for your agency to commit to answering letters from incarcerated survivors, even if you cannot provide a hotline, than to offer nothing. Likewise, survivors need advocacy and support during the medical forensic exam, even if you cannot provide longer term follow-up services.
- Consider a multi-phased approach. Begin with the minimum that you know you can provide and make a plan to find resources to offer more.
- Work with the corrections agency to apply for government or private foundation grants to fund services to incarcerated survivors.
- Negotiate a contract or fee for service agreement with the corrections agency.
- Together with the corrections agency, approach the county, city, or state government about including victim services in the coming years’ budgets.
- Consider asking experienced volunteers, who might need a new challenge to stay engaged, to be part of your program for incarcerated survivors.
Many agencies have found that, as they work together with corrections agencies in their community, the team can pool opportunities and resources to benefit the rape crisis program, the detention facility, and survivors.
The first step is to find common ground. Most corrections officials want to run safe facilities and will agree that even one incident of sexual abuse in the facility is too many. Like other communities and groups of people, many corrections staff prefer to believe that the problems are happening somewhere else. Unless you are faced with evidence that there is a significant problem at the facility, you may not have to change their minds to set up effective programs for people in the facility.
It is also possible that the facility is very safe, and you can acknowledge that to the staff. Emphasize that this means you can work together to make sure that it stays safe. It benefits everyone when survivors get the help they need.
You may have heard from survivors already and know that abuse is happening in the facility. In this case, you must determine what your goal is for working with the staff. Are you advocating for an investigation to be done? Are you concerned about retaliation against a survivor? Is staff’s denial that abuse could happen preventing them from implementing policies and practices that would make the facility safer?
Whatever your goal is, start there. Be careful to respect the privacy and confidentiality of any survivors who have disclosed to you. Express your concerns to corrections staff in simple, clear terms. Emphasize that you have shared goals. Listen to and be respectful of the corrections officials’ perspectives. Offer to be helpful. Ask yourself what survivors need most from you in this interaction, while keeping a longer term strategy in mind. Sometimes, it is better to yield a given argument to stay at the table than to take on every battle — as long as you can do so without betraying survivors or leaving anyone in danger.
If you have questions about how to work with a specific facility, we can help. Please complete our simple technical assistance request form.