Stephen Donaldson, who headed JDI (then SPR) from 1988 to his death in 1996, was
brutally gang-raped in 1973 after being arrested at a Quaker pray-in at the White
House. His death was caused by an infection related to AIDS - he contracted HIV
as a victim of prisoner rape.
I have made it my personal business for the past 21 years to know more about prisoner
rape than anyone else in the world. In 1973 I was the first survivor of jailhouse
rape to speak out about it in public, at a Quaker House press conference. That made
me the country's most famous jail punk, and I guess I still am. This was after having
been arrested at a pray-in on the White House lawn, a protest against my government's
violence against the defenseless people of Cambodia. I was set up by a guard captain,
Clinton Cobb, in DC Jail and gang-raped about sixty times over two days. God would
not let me remain silent, and being a journalist by profession, I forced myself
to deal with it. Then I spent a week in the Veteran's Hospital-I'm a Navy vet, and
my dad skippered a ship right here out of Boston-getting my rectum sewn up. From
then on I learned and I lectured about jailhouse rape, starting with testimony to
the DC City Council and continuing to this day.
I've been formally trained as a male rape crisis counselor and have co-chaired a
men's counselors group; I headed the committee on male survivors of the New York
City government's Task Force Against Sexual Assault, and I've been an officer of
SPR since 1984, president for six years. Correcting another Globe error, it was
I who wrote the Prisoner Rape Education Project, the first published practical information
and advice on prisoner rape. I wrote the articles on male rape and on prisons for
the 2-volume Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. I've lectured on the subject at Columbia
University, where I did my undergraduate and graduate work, New York University
Law School, Fordham University Law School, and Rutgers, the State University of
New Jersey. I wrote the SPR amicus brief for the Supreme Court of the United States,
edited and signed by attorney Frank Dunbaugh, a member of the Supreme Court bar,
and it is now required reading in two law schools and was cited in US Law Week.
But what really qualifies me to speak with authority is my five years behind bars,
most of it as a federal prisoner, convicted of a crime (for the first and, so far,
last time) in 1980, "assault with intent to commit murder" in the emergency room
of the Bronx Veterans hospital. That, dear Public Safety Committee, is what then-untreated
Rape Trauma Syndrome led this onetime pacifist into; note it well. As a prisoner
who is inescapably tagged as a jail punk wherever I'm held, I've been raped in eight
different institutions, I've lived the life of a jail punk, I've spent over a year
in so-called "protective custody", I've spent years "hooked up" in protective pair
relationships, even belonged to a small gang. I've seen it all from the inside,
I know how the system really works, and I'm not misled by official gobbbledegook.
That is what really makes me an authority.
I've been harassed by lieutenants who think every punk is a faggot; even got written
up by one at Otisville and put in the Hole, charged with "disturbing the good order
of the institution," on the grounds that because of my reputation as a punk lots
of guys were hitting on me. Talk about blaming the victim! Fortunately the Captain
was wiser and tore up the charge, saying "Normally I consider everybody who comes
up before me on a disciplinary charge automatically guilty, but in your case I'm
gonna make an exception!"
It was also at Otisville where I was double-celled with another punk who was on
the verge of suicide. I had to move out because a big boxer named Champ had "put
a claim on" me and wanted me to move in with him. I went to the staff person who
controlled cell assignments and begged him to be careful about who he moved in with
that punk to take my place. I will never, ever forget watching this Counselor rub
his hands with glee at the thought. He then assigned a well-known rapist to the
cell. The poor punk went insane the next day and totally demolished the cell, for
which the feds gave him another 5 years for destruction of federal property. That,
you see, is the real world of prisons, and it has little to do with the paper world
of official policies and lawyers' briefs.