“I will not forget these women. They are in a living death behind bars. Be with them, God.” -Khetam Bneyan
Sexual abuse behind bars is sadly not uncommon in most parts of the world, including the West. Sometimes, prisoners face abuse from their fellow inmates. Other times, it is the security guards and the law enforcement officials who commit sexual crimes against their prisoners, often as a form of torture to obtain information.
Just Detention International is a U.S. based organization which seeks to support survivors of rape during incarceration on a global scale. Their mission statement reads (homepage linked below):
Just Detention International is a health and human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention. The rape of detainees, whether committed by corrections staff or by inmates, is a crime and is recognized under international law as a form of torture. In the U.S…more than 200,000 people [are] subjected to this form of violence every year.
Cases of sexual abuse in detention are not rare, isolated incidents, but the result of a systemic failure to protect the safety of inmates. Survivors of prisoner rape suffer severe physical injuries and psychological harm; many contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases as a result of their abuse. Once released — and the vast majority of inmates do eventually get out — survivors return to their communities with all of their physical and emotional scars.
JDI advocates for the safety and well-being of all inmates, whether they are confined in federal, state, or local facilities — both private and public — including prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, immigration detention centers, halfway houses, and police lock-ups. JDI works to: hold government officials accountable for prisoner rape; promote public attitudes that value the dignity and safety of inmates; and ensure that survivors of this violence have access to the help they need.
JDI offers their website services in various languages. They also have a forum through which survivors have (and continue to) share their stories of abuse.
These are the stories of people like Tabitha, “a transgender woman who was sexually assaulted by fellow prisoners at several men’s prisons…She has never gotten a response for reporting the abuse, and was even raped once while trying to file a grievance.”
Stephen, who was “brutally gang-raped after being arrested…he contracted HIV as a consequence of the rape, and later died from an AIDS-related illness.”
Policarpio, who was “sexually abused [by a] member of the correctional medical staff. The abuse caused him to develop depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, but the administration has denied him treatment.”
Peter, or Clouded Running Horses, “a bisexual man who was who was raped and held hostage at knife point for six hours in his cell by a [fellow] prisoner.”
Alisha, who, “at the age of 22…was abused for months by a corrections officer. Despite her fears, she reported the abuse, and was raped by two other corrections officers in retaliation for speaking out.”
Prisoners who report their abuses often suffer further abuse as retaliation and may be told there is nothing that can be done. “One transgender woman housed in a men’s prison in Texas has been repeatedly sexually abused, extorted, and forced into sexual slavery by prison gangs. Officers have denied her repeated requests to be transferred to protective custody housing.”
Even in prison – perhaps especially in prison – people deserve to be treated with respect and ought to be ensured a level of safety which would prevent abuse at the hands of other inmates and/or prison personnel. No one, regardless of their reasons for being there, regardless of their sexual orientation or ethnic background, regardless of their political or familial affiliations, deserves to be raped.
*All survivor story quotations were taken from the JDI Survivor Testimony page. These and other survivor stories can be found here : http://www.justdetention.org/en/survivor_testimony.aspx