SURVIVOR TESTIMONY

National Prison Rape Elimination Commission
Testimony of Marilyn Shirley

Washington, D.C., June 14, 2005

My name is Marilyn Shirley and I’m here to tell you about my experience with prisoner rape.

I will never forget that night in March of 2000.

I was convicted of a drug charge and placed in the Federal Medical Center at Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas from January 12, 1998 until September 10, 2000.

While in prison, I took all of the required Bureau of Prisons courses – from substance abuse prevention classes to classes that taught me job skills. I never once had an incident report written against me. In fact, I was rewarded with time credited for good behavior. Upon my release, I walked away with a $250 check from the Bureau of Prisons and a permanently devastated emotional and mental state as a result of my rape.

On that night in March 2000, I was awakened at approximately 3:30 a.m. by prison guard Michael Miller, a Senior Officer of the Bureau of Prisons. He told me, in the presence of my roommates, that I was wanted at the officer’s station.

I was scared to death that they’d called me because something had happened to my husband, who had heart problems and diabetes, or to my twins.

I could not have been more wrong. I should have feared for my own safety. After entering the officer’s station, Miller made a phone call stating that if a Lieutenant heads for the Camp to give him ‘the signal.’

After hanging up the phone, Miller started forcing himself on me, kissing me and groping my breasts. I was pushed into a storeroom. He continued to assault me; the more that I begged and pleaded for him to stop, the more violent he became. He tried to force me to perform oral sex on him. He then threw me against the wall and violently raped me.

I can still remember him whispering in my ear during the rape: “Do you think you’re the only one? Don’t even think of telling, because it’s your word against mine, and you will lose.” Miller also said to me “who do you think they will believe, an inmate or a fine upstanding officer like me?”

The ordeal was finally over after Miller received the abrupt signal of someone clearing their throat over his radio, signaling that someone was coming. I later learned there are no security cameras in the officer’s station.

After returning to my room, I took off my sweatpants and put them in plastic and hid them in my locker.

Soon after, I confided in an officer of the Bureau of Prisons, who was my welding boss, that Officer Miller had raped me. I asked her not to tell anyone because I didn’t want anything to interfere with my release date, as I was afraid of what Miller would do to me if I reported it. I also told one of my roommates, and I swore her to secrecy, too.

I stayed silent for months. Having nowhere to hide, I went to sleep every night not knowing if he was going to come for me again. Following the rape, Officer Miller harassed, intimidated and threatened me in many direct and indirect ways.

I lived in fear, until I was released from prison in September 2000. That day, I brought my sweatpants to the Carswell camp administrator and told her about the rape. I gave statements and answered questions. The semen-stained sweatpants were taken as evidence to the FBI Crime Lab. I was then given a lie detector test, which I passed.

About three years after my release Officer Miller was found guilty of rape.  He has been put away for 12 years.  I owe a lot to my attorneys who believed in me and my family who supported me. I sometimes wonder about other victims who aren’t so lucky, either because they are still inside, or because they don’t have evidence to confront their attackers.

Now that I am out of prison, I am left with the devastating impacts of the rape.  This is very hard to talk about, but I haven’t been able to be intimate with my husband since my rape.  Sometimes, I fear that he will all of a sudden want an intimacy that I am unable to give.  But we love each other and have been married for 30 years, and he is very supportive.

I have paralyzing panic attacks.  I can’t even hold my grandbaby because I’m afraid of having a panic attack and dropping her.  I can’t do some of the basic things, like watch certain TV shows, or go over high freeway overpasses because I start to panic. 

I have awful nightmares and sometimes I wet the bed as a result.  Sometimes my husband has to come and pull me out of the closet, where I go when I have these attacks.  At the request of my therapist, I wear a rubber band around my wrist so that I can “snap” myself back to reality when I have panic attacks.  I’m also on five different medications for these conditions. 

And, although my boss was very understanding about my situation, it got to a point where I could not work anymore.  So I am now unable to work. 

I sometimes fear that Officer Miller is going to come after me.  Even though he is in prison for 12 years, I’m still afraid that he will somehow get out.  My life is a mess and I’m afraid this is never going to go away.

Rape should not have been part of my punishment. Though I am still struggling with the emotional damage I have suffered from this rape, it is important for me to speak out. With God’s help, I get strength from knowing that if I refuse to remain silent, maybe others won’t have to suffer this way. Thank you for listening, and, please, let’s work together to end this injustice.

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