E-NEWS - 2011

Changing Lives, One Letter at a Time

Every day, JDI gets letters from prisoner rape survivors who are still behind bars and desperate for help. One of them is Rico, who wrote to JDI after being sexually abused "too many times to count" by inmates and staff at Arizona prisons.

As we do with all survivors who write to us, JDI sent Rico a personal letter with a packet of self-help information, along with a note of support from another survivor -- a member of our Survivor Council, who is now out of prison. A few weeks later, Rico wrote again:

"I just want to thank all of you at JDI for saving my life. I tried to kill myself and it brings tears to my eyes knowing that I am not alone. I just want to thank all of you for caring for me. I owe you my life."

For those who have never been behind bars, it can be hard to imagine how a simple letter of support can have the life-changing impact that Rico describes. But survivors of rape in detention suffer from extreme isolation and fear. Struggling with the hurt and shame that comes in the aftermath of trauma, most survivors are too scared to report the abuse, for fear of being labeled a "snitch" and being targeted for more violence. Those who are raped by staff, like Rico, aren't likely to trust the rapist's coworkers to offer help or protection. There is no safety, and no place to hide.

Within such a world, a kind word can mean the difference between despair and hope, between life and death.

So far this year, JDI has responded to some 1,400 letters from prisoners around the country. One of those, a Florida inmate named Cornelius, contracted HIV when he was gang-raped by four inmates. He writes:

"Every day, I take time out of my day to go over the packet you sent me. It's my daily meditation to help me heal. I have no outside support, so I depend on organizations to give me hope. If it weren't for the packet, I probably would have given up and gone on to hurt people, but the JDI packet gave me a change of heart."

At JDI, we fight hard for the long-term policy, legislative, and cultural changes that are needed to end sexual abuse in all detention facilities. At the same time, we know that real people need our help right now. 

You can be a part of JDI's life-saving work by donating to our One Letter, One Life campaign. We're aiming to raise $216,600 -- $1 for each one of the people who is sexually abused every year while in the custody of our government. You'll also be able to send your own message of support to Rico, Cornelius, or another survivor who is still behind bars and desperate for help.

 
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