Breaking the silence
When Jonathan was sexually abused by a high-ranking prison official, he was sure there was nothing he could do about it. The official, Mr. Miller, had raped many other inmates at the Florida prison -- and he always got away with it. The inmates who filed reports against Mr. Miller were either threatened by prison staff or transferred to different facilities, far away from their families and communities.
To keep Jonathan close, Mr. Miller gave him a job working directly for him as a cook. Jonathan knew that this job would leave him even more vulnerable, but he had little choice. He recalls,
I really needed my job. Few people realize how expensive prison is for inmates, how we have to buy our own clothing, stamps, phone calls, medicine, etc. My job was very important to me -- and Mr. Miller knew it.
Soon after he started working for Mr. Miller, the abuse escalated. Jonathan knew that if he tried to resist, Mr. Miller could claim that it was Jonathan who attacked him.
Despite the risks, Jonathan reported the abuse -- with surprisingly positive results. The FBI officers who responded took Jonathan's story seriously and gained his trust. As a result of their investigation, Mr. Miller was prosecuted for his crimes, and Jonathan was transferred to another prison.
Jonathan, however, remains fearful. He writes:
Do I feel safe? No. I think I'll die one day at the hands of the Bureau of Prisons. My perpetrator was well-loved and had power and many friends.
Jonathan's story is a chilling example of how prisoners are compelled to keep quiet -- but it also proves that it is possible to hold abusive officials accountable and to break the culture of silence that supports their criminal behavior.
Every day JDI receives letters from survivors who courageously share their stories to help themselves, and others, heal. On our website you can read Jonathan's full testimony, and those of other survivors, all written in their own words.
We know that we will one day stop prisoner rape. And when we do, it will be because of the courage of survivors, like Jonathan, who risk so much to fight this injustice -- and also because of people like you, who support each person's basic right to be free from sexual abuse.
Photo: Prison Fellowship International