PRESS RELEASES - 2003

Survivors of Prisoner Rape Speak at Capitol for First Time

Today's "Stories of Survival" Event in Support of H.R. 1707

WASHINGTON D.C., June 24, 2003 - For the first time in history, survivors of prisoner rape from around the country will gather in the nation's capitol to tell personal stories of abuse and urge lawmakers to address the problem. The event calls for the passage of the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2003 (H.R. 1707), slated for a vote in coming weeks. Today's event will be at the Cannon Terrace on the northwest corner of the Cannon House Office Building at 11:00 a.m.

Called Stories of Survival: Recognizing Rape Behind Bars, the event is sponsored by Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR), a national human rights organization dedicated to ending sexual violence against men, women, and youth in detention. Co-sponsors of the legislation will also speak, including Rep. Bobbie Scott (D-VA), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD).

"We're showing America the human face of prisoner rape," said Lara Stemple, executive director of SPR. "These stories are about men and women, incarcerated for minor offenses, whose lives were shattered by what they endured while in custody."

"I have waited for over thirty years to see what happened to me recognized as a serious human rights abuse," explained Tom Cahill, who was gang raped in jail after being arrested for civil disobedience in 1968.

Also speaking at the event is Linda Bruntmyer, whose seventeen-year-old son was incarcerated after setting a dumpster on fire. After being raped repeatedly while housed in an adult prison, he committed suicide. "This is not what we mean when we say justice. Rape should not be considered a part of the punishment. Rape is always a crime," said Bruntmyer.

"It takes great courage to talk about experiencing this devastating abuse," said Stemple. "These men and women are lifting the curtain of silence by bravely going public with their stories. We hope and trust that the House and Senate will show similar courage by passing the bill soon."

One in five men in prison has been sexually abused, often by other inmates. Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff, reach as high as one in four in some facilities. "It's time our nation takes some responsibility for the violence it allows to flourish right under its nose," said Cahill.

"The bi-partisan support for this bill marks historic progress on the most neglected form of abuse in the nation," Stemple said. The bill calls for the gathering of national statistics about the problem; the development of guidelines for states about how to address prisoner rape; the creation of a review panel to hold annual hearings; and the provision of grants to states to combat the problem.

Survivors and family members scheduled to speak:

Linda Bruntmyer, mother of victim, Rodney Hulin Jr. (deceased)
Tom Cahill, survivor of rape in jail
Keith DeBlasio, survivor of rape in prison
Vivian Edwards, aunt of a survivor of prisoner rape, Roderick Johnson
Hope F., survivor of rape in jail
T.J. Parsell, survivor of rape in prison
Marilyn Shirley, survivor of rape in prison

After the event, the full text of all survivor speeches will be available on-line at www.spr.org/en/sosurvivors.html

Other scheduled speakers:

Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA)
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD)
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA)
Lara Stemple, Executive Director of Stop Prisoner Rape
Pat Nolan, President, Justice Fellowship