E-NEWS - 2010

'I did not own my own body' -- A Survivor's Tale of Sexual Abuse Behind Bars

Arrested one night for solicitation, Cecilia, a transgender woman, was placed in the male unit at San Francisco jail. For her own safety, she was assigned to the jail's "gay pod" -- but she wasn't safe at all. The jail's classification process failed to separate predatory inmates from those who were vulnerable. When another inmate demanded sex from Cecilia, she felt unable to refuse, fearing physical violence. "I definitely felt that I did not own my own body," Cecilia said, reflecting on the assault. "It was enough to convince me that my life did not belong to me and I was robbed of every single drop of human dignity."

Some of the inmates most at risk for sexual abuse in detention are like Cecilia -- transgender women housed in men's facilities. On top of harassment and abuse from other inmates, staff often mock transgender prisoners instead of providing protection. Some corrections officials themselves sexually assault transgender women in their custody. A study in California found that almost two thirds of transgender prisoners had been sexually victimized while locked up.

You can read Cecilia's full testimony, and the stories of other survivors of prisoner rape, on our website. Some of these accounts of sexual violence are quite graphic, and as such they are not suitable reading for everyone. But it is critical that we hear from survivors about what happens behind bars, to help us better understand this human rights crisis and stop it.

For 30 years, survivors have been at the forefront of JDI's efforts. With your support, those most affected by this violence will continue to play a key role in the movement to end prisoner rape.

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