04/23/2014 05:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Is Prison Rape Hollywood's Solution To Violent Crime? (VIDEO)

In the golden age of cinema, the good guy would warn the bad guys, "You're going to swing for that."

Today, Hollywood cops don't taunt evildoers with execution. More often, the man with the badge promises criminals a lifetime of hell on earth -- as a rape victim.

A supercut of prison rape threats in crime dramas, low-budget comedies and even Oscar-contending films shows just how absurd -- and how common -- Hollywood's go-to taunt has become, even though rape ranks just below child molestation on the not-funny list.

"Do you know what happens to pretty boys like you when they go up to the farm on statutory charges," Woody Harrelson says in HBO's "True Detective," a line echoed almost word-for-word by Christopher Meloni and Denzel Washington in other Hollywood cop moments, as if it were as routine as reading suspects their Miranda rights.

To be sure, prison rape is a serious problem. The Department of Justice interviewed more than 92,000 adult inmates in a 2013 National Inmate Survey, and the survey found that 4 percent of the respondents said they'd suffered "one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff," just in the previous year.

That figure would probably be significantly higher if not for the shame and fear of retaliation that prisoners typically experience, according to Jesse Lerner-Kinglake of Just Detention International, a health an human rights organization.

"One other important thing to keep in mind about the Bureau of Justice Statistics figure is that it’s measuring the number of people who are sexually abused, not the number assaults," Lerner-Kinglake says. "This matters because so many people are sexually abused over and over again, even within one year."

"It's our view that myths surrounding prisoner rape -- myths that TV and movies have helped propagate -- are a huge obstacle to ending this crisis."

Of course, it should also be noted that in "Hang 'Em High"-type Westerns, lawmen might have been accurately pointing out the penalty for committing murder when they taunted outlaws with the gallows. Rape has never been condoned as a punishment.

"Prisoner rape does not prevent crime," Lerner-Kinglake says. "No link has ever been found between sexual abuse in detention and lower crime rates. In fact, stopping rape inside of prison benefits the community at large. It’s easy for people to forget that the vast majority of prisoners are released, bringing their trauma – and diseases – back to their communities. This is an issue that should matter to us all."

[Special thanks to Filmdrunk and its commenters for helping with crowdsourcing.]

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