'I gain strength from speaking about the abuses I endured' -- A survivor's account of sexual violence in prison
An inexperienced 20-year-old, Barrilee had no idea what to expect when she was sent to prison. Shortly after her arrival, she was transferred out of state, because Oregon's penitentiaries were overcrowded. She knew something was wrong as soon as she entered the new facility: as she and other female inmates stripped and showered, male officers leered, whistled, and cat-called.
After an altercation with another prisoner, Barrilee ended up in isolation. She was put in a cell without running water or food, and saw no one for two days. Barrilee was relieved when an officer finally checked on her, agreed to bring her food, and turned on the water in her cell. But after a few weeks of regular visits, the
officer started pressuring Barrilee into providing sexual favors, and eventually he sexually assaulted her.When other officers in the facility learned of what had happened, they beat Barrilee rather than report the abuse to their superiors.
But she didn't give up. Barrilee wrote to friends and organizations on the outside, telling them of her experiences and the widespread sexual abuse at the facility. Her advocacy led to an investigation of the prison, and she was eventually transferred back to Oregon. In the process, Barrilee became committed to the struggle to end prisoner rape. "I gain strength from speaking about the abuses I endured in prison and I will continue to advocate until no prisoner faces the threat of sexual violence," she says.
As we mark the 30th anniversary of JDI, we are proud to honor the enormous contributions of survivors like Barrilee, who have been at the forefront of the effort to end sexual violence in detention over the past three decades. You can find Barrilee's full testimony on JDI's website, along with stories and portraits of many other survivors. While these accounts are not suitable for everyone, as they describe incidents of sexual abuse, we believe that survivors' accounts help us understand how to stop this violence.
Thank you for your support as we continue to fight for an end to sexual assault behind bars.