Preventing Prisoner Rape Project
The Preventing Prisoner Rape Project is a national project here in Australia aiming to:
- raise awareness about the issue of rape in prisons,
- reach out and support prison rape survivors,
- support those workers both inside and outside prisons who are trying to deal with this issue of sexual violence in detention, and
- bring about appropriate law reform and changes to prison administration in order to prevent prisoner rape.
While our key area of concern relates to men's and women's prisons, we are also concerned about sexual violence in juvenile justice centres, secure mental health facilities, and immigration detention centres.
A mother's action: From an interview with Vickie Douglas about the ways in which she has responded to the experiences of her son who was sexually assaulted within prison.
To read about an initiative trying to deal with violence within prisons, read Bearing witness to prison brutality by Susannah Sheffer.
History of this project
by David Denborough
In the early 1990s, I worked within welfare and education at Long Bay Prison in Sydney and was horrified by some of the stories I heard from young men who had been subjected to assault. The stories I heard while facilitating groups with transgender inmates were also profoundly disturbing.
At the same time, I was asked by Dulwich Centre, an independent counselling, community work, and publishing house here in Adelaide (which had been involved in responding to one of the recommendations of the Deaths in Custody Royal Commission in partnership with Aboriginal Health) to put together a book about prisons - or, more accurately, alternatives to prisons. This became the book Beyond the prison: Gathering dreams of freedom.
To cut a long story short, I undertook research for this book and this took me to various places including New York City where I met Stephen Donaldson, one of the key early members of Stop Prisoner Rape in the US. I have stayed in touch with the work of this grassroots organisation ever since and recently visited their headquarters in LA. Stop Prisoner Rape (now Just Detention International) has had amazing success in making the issue of prison rape a national issue in the US. So much so, that a federal law has now been passed and every state government is required to take a 'zero tolerance policy' to rape in prison. Stephen Donaldson (who has since died of AIDS - he acquired HIV through rape in prison) would be amazed at what has been achieved. There is now money and research and more importantly significant action being taken to address the issue of prisoner rape in the US. I actually find it very inspiring what they have achieved. When I met Stephen the organisation was just operating from his apartment.
There is a group of us here in Adelaide who are now determined to try to do something similar here in Australia.
- We have developed a draft support package for male prison rape survivors that we are currently distributing and seeking feedback about. When complete, we wish to create a written version as well as tapes and CDs and make these available to current prisoners or ex-prisoners who have experienced sexual violence in detention. We will soon begin working on a draft support package for women prisoners and ex-prisoners.
- We are reaching out to workers both inside and outside prisons who are trying to respond to this issue in their own ways.
- We are making links with other groups committed to prison reform, prison action, prisoner support, and so on.
- We are seeking stories, documents, records, and reports of prison rape from across Australia so that we can start to build a case that this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously and addressed in this country.
- We have approached a number of lawyers to see if they would be interested in investigating the possibility of introducing legislation inspired by that which has been and is being developed in the US.
- We have good links with the Stop Prisoner Rape people in the US who wish to support us in any way that they can and we may arrange for one of their workers to visit and give a speaking tour in the future.
We'd like to hear from you
If this is an issue that you care about, we would really value hearing from you.
We would be interested to hear you ideas, suggestions, or stories about this issue.
Please contact us:
Preventing Prisoner Rape Project
Post: PPR, Dulwich Centre, PO Box 7192 Hutt St, Adelaide, South Australia, 5000
Phone: (08) 8223 3966