4 tips to prevent sexual assault on female correctional officers

Female officers are at greater risk of being sexually assaulted due to cross-gender supervision; here are some tips to lessen the number of opportunities a predator has to attack

Due to cross-gender supervision, female correctional officers are at a greater risk of being sexually assaulted. On a daily basis they could find themselves in an environment dominated by sexual predators. If and when the opportunity arises, these sexual predators will try and take what they want by force with no regard for the victims.

In corrections, officers are forced to interact with those who may look to do them harm. The environment they patrol is conducive to all types of assaults, especially sexual assaults. Listed below are four reminders in corrections that will help correctional staff avoid the attempts of control and domination by the inmate population

Limit interactions
It’s paramount to remain professional and limit the verbal interactions to only job-related duties. Certain inmates will try their best to get personal information from staff so a weakness can be discovered. Once that weakness is discovered, that inmate will utilize it and gain the sense of control needed to exploit the officer and their vulnerabilities.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Remain firm, fair and consistent
Staff, at all times, must remain firm, fair and consistent with all inmates. This is the definition of true professional supervision. By being firm, fair and consistent, the inmate has less of a chance in believing that they are special. Staff must also make sure that the inmates know that all interactions and dealings with the inmate population will be defined by the staff member job duties as prescribed through administrative regulations.

A staff member who goes out of their way for one specific inmate may make that inmate feel special. This feeling may then manifest into a false belief that there is a mutual physical attraction between the staff member and the inmate. This can eventually lead to the staff member being sexually assaulted because the inmate may truly believe that the staff member wants them physically.

Don’t be predictable
Staff members must not be so predictable in the manner that they carry out their duties. Corrections can be rather monotonous and it is within that monotony that the inmates will discover repeated patterns of behavior from staff. They have nothing to do all day but observe staff’s daily routine. Therefore, staff should change it up. They should be unpredictable. By being unpredictable, they become harder to control.

Avoid Complacency
Staff should never get too comfortable with their surroundings. Staff must remember at all times the criminal element in which they are paid to supervise. They should remind themselves daily that even though no incidents have occurred in a while, it still doesn’t mean that there won’t be one today. If they become complacent, the inmates will pick up on it and, when the staff member’s hands are down, they will get them.

Those who commit sexual assaults do not define their motivation within the realm of attraction, desire, lust, passion, or sexual arousal. They are purely seeking control and domination. They are looking strictly to dominate, abuse and humiliate the victim and its anger, hate and the desire to do harm that motivates them. Sexual abuse occurs because the aggressor is only looking out for their needs and/or wants and has no care for the needs and/or wants of the victim.

By following the above advice, officers can lessen a predator’s opportunities to strike and keep themselves safe. We also need to count on each other, our brother and sister officers, to watch each other’s backs.

What advice would you offer to other officers on avoiding sexual assault on the job?

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