PRESS RELEASES - 2004

Prisoner Rape Survivor T.J. Parsell in Los Angeles to Offer Testimony and Call for Corrections Reform

November 5, 2004

LOS ANGELES - Gay prisoner rape survivor T.J. Parsell has transformed himself from a victim of horrifying abuse to an advocate for basic human rights. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, November 9-10, he will be in Los Angeles to tell his story and to promote corrections policy reform that seeks to protect the right of U.S. inmates to be free from sexual violence. His visit is hosted by the human rights organization Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR).

Prisoner rape is the most widespread yet neglected human rights violation in the U.S. today. Recent studies show that one in four female and one in five male inmates are subjected to sexual abuse. With more than two million people incarcerated in the U.S. at any given time, that means a staggering number of people are victims of this egregious crime.

Gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates are the hardest hit by sexual violence in detention. One survey concludes that more than four in ten LGBT prisoners have been sexually assaulted. LGBT victims who report sexual abuse to prison officials may endure further humiliation and injustice at the hands of authorities; corrections officers often misconstrue homosexuality or transgender status as consent to rape, and so trivialize the reports of survivors. LGBT victims are also likely to be subjected to continued rape and abuse.

T.J. Parsell was incarcerated when he was 17, for robbing a photomat with a toy gun as a prank. He was gang raped his first day in prison. “Afterward, they flipped a coin to determine who would be my man. I blamed myself for many years, thinking it was my fault, that somehow I deserved what had happened to me. This is quite common among gay rape victims in prison,” Mr. Parsell explained. After his release at 21, he put himself through college, graduated with honors, and has since become a leader in business and in the software industry. Mr. Parsell is a member of the SPR Board of Directors.

On November 9, SPR is hosting a community dialogue in Los Angeles, bringing together gay rights groups, human rights organizations, corrections officials, rape crisis centers, and others to discuss how to address the alarming rates of sexual assault against gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates. At the dialogue, Mr. Parsell will offer first-hand testimony of his own prison ordeal.

To speak with Mr. Parsell, please contact Lovisa Stannow at Stop Prisoner Rape, 213-384-1400 ext. 104 or lstannow@spr.org.