Guards Raping Women Prisoners

Guards Raping Women Prisoners

An inmate sits alone at Century Regional Detention Facility in Los Angeles on Oct. 2. The jail, which houses female inmates, is where two alleged rapes by a male guard happened earlier this month. (Los Angeles Times)

What’s life like for thousands of incarcerated women? Imagine if Hollywood’s worst predators had a key to your home

It didn’t start as rape. Just weeks after arriving at a Kentucky jail, Rosa (not her real name, to protect her safety) was already a target. One of her guards, a captain, entered her cell and demanded that she undress for him. Refusing was not an option, so Rosa complied.

Of course he returned. That same month, the captain sexually assaulted Rosa in her cell — the first of multiple attacks over the course of several weeks. She was eventually moved to a new facility, but she wasn’t safe there either: Another guard, this time a lieutenant, abused her repeatedly. Both men were friends with other high-ranking officials who were willing to use threats to keep Rosa quiet. Courageously, she reported them to the police anyway. It didn’t matter. Neither man faced charges. As far she knows, the captain still works at the jail.

What makes Rosa’s story particularly depressing is that it is so common. Every year, about 200,000 people are sexually abused in U.S. detention facilities. Most of the victims are men, since they are far more likely to be locked up. But a recent survey by the Department of Justice found that at least 7% of incarcerated women reported being sexually abused in a one-year period. The true number is almost certainly higher. Prisoners are reluctant to come forward to talk about being raped while still under the perpetrator’s control.

We simply can’t allow government officials to continue raping those in their custody.

The majority of women who endure sexual violence are assaulted not just once, but again and again. And the perpetrators typically get off scot-free. In fact, even in cases where the abuse by guards was substantiated, nearly half of the perpetrators faced no legal action. Worse still, according to a 2014 Justice Department study, 15% of staff abusers were allowed to keep their jobs.

As the head of an organization devoted to ending the sexual assault of those in custody, I hear stories similar to Rosa’s almost every day. These accounts grimly echo the recent revelations about Hollywood and the media. The dynamic of the domineering, abusive man whose decisions can destroy your life is familiar to women everywhere, whether in Hollywood or in prison.

But there are limits to the parallels between sexual abuse that happens in the workplace and in detention.

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Lovisa Stannow
Los  Angeles Times