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Addressing Women's Victimization Histories in Custodial Settings

NCJ Number
Mary Stathopoulos; Antonia Quadara; Bianca Fileborn; Haley Clark
Date Published
20 pages
This report from the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault examines the possibility of prison as a source for re-traumatization of female criminal offenders.
Previous research has found that women entering Australia's prisons often have histories of sexual assault traumatization resulting from either experiences of child sexual abuse or physical and sexual abuse suffered as an adult. This report examines the possibility that these prisons could serve as a source for re-traumatization of the women. A review of the data on female offenders indicates that the women often enter prison with less serious criminal careers than men, and that they tend to have high rates of sexual abuse victimization histories. In addition, the women often come from disadvantage homes in terms of socio-economic status, have histories of substance abuse and mental health problems, are often the primary caregivers for dependent children, and have lower levels of educational attainment. These problems are often associated with individuals who have a history of abuse and assault. As these women enter prison, the penal environment, designed and built around the themes of power and control, sets the women up for re-traumatization. The article discusses the challenges that prison officials face when dealing with the women and the need for the development of policies and programs aimed at addressing the needs of female offenders with a history of sexual victimization. References