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Serving Survivors in Confinement: A Handbook for Minnesota Advocates

Victims/survivors in confinement are both highly vulnerable and profoundly underserved. In addition to the large number of victims/survivors who experienced sexual violence prior to their confinement, it’s estimated that more than 200,000 people in custody experience sexual violence every year. Support and services are crucial for the well-being of all victims/survivors, regardless of where they go to bed at night.

Victims/survivors in confinement may have many of the same concerns as victims/survivors in the community, along with additional fears and challenges due to their environment. Victims/Survivors in confinement may face retaliation and further violence if they make a report or are “outed” as victims/survivors of sexual violence. Similar to in the community, people may be targeted for sexual violence on the basis of their identity (for example, people in the LGBTQ+ community) or because they are perceived as being vulnerable. In addition, people who have been confined face stigma and bias during their time in confinement and following their reentry into the community. As an advocate, it is important to recognize your privilege, and any implicit biases or stereotypes you may have.

The experience of confinement is traumatizing – people in confinement lose nearly all power and control over what they can do and where they can go. For victims/survivors, this loss of control severely limits the coping mechanisms available to them. When providing advocacy services, it is important to recognize the limitations people in confinement face, and to adapt the information and support you provide with those limitations in mind (for example, to talk about coping skills that are accessible, such as guided imagery and breathing techniques, and to avoid suggesting coping skills that may not be accessible–such as taking walks in nature or spending time with family). These limitations are important to be aware of when safety planning as well. However, just as with victims/survivors in the community, victims/survivors in confinement are the experts on their situation and know what they need to stay safe.

As a community-based advocate, you have the unique ability to provide victims/survivors in confinement with external support and confidentiality. All staff and volunteers inside the facility are mandated reporters of sexual violence under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), including medical and mental health staff. The skills, support, and understanding of sexual violence an advocate provides can be incredibly meaningful.


Purpose of Handbook

This handbook is meant to connect advocates with resources and Minnesota-specific information relevant to serving victims/survivors in confinement. The handbook itself includes an introduction to the Prison Rape Elimination Act standards and advocate confidentiality in Minnesota, and provides links to recommended webinars and resources on victim service provision for people in confinement.

Advocacy Advocates Minnesota

Last modified: 7/5/2022