Between 2014 and 2015, Vera worked to provide training and technical assistance to DYS on creating and sustaining a zero-tolerance culture for sexual assault in their juvenile correctional facilities, grounded in research with youth and staff. Over the course of the project, Vera assessed DYS’s current culture—through interviews with DYS leadership, facility staff, and incarcerated youth. Vera also developed a youth survey using audio computer-assisted self-interviewing software (ACASI). Studies have shown that ACASI increases both the reliability and rate of responses, compared to face-to-face interviews or paper-based self-administered questionnaires. Vera  followed up the assessment with curriculum development and training on a) helping youth and staff understand and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth, and b) promoting the development and maintenance of appropriate staff-youth boundaries.

Why is this work important?

In its recently released report, Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that  approximately 9.5 percent of adjudicated youth in U.S. state juvenile facilities reported having suffered sexual abuse within 12 months of arriving at their facility, with rates as high as 36 percent in some facilities.