Sexual assault against women is incredibly common both inside and outside of incarceration, but the cases that occur in jail are more heinous for significant reasons. Women in prison are under the legal guardianship of the state and unable to give consent to sexual activity. Even if they agree to any interactions, they are still considered victims of the government’s failure to provide a safe environment for them.
Correctional facilities are intended to remove offenders from society for rehabilitation so they can return to their lives without committing further crimes. However, women are at a quantifiably higher risk of becoming victims of sexual assault by staff members, inmates, and others when they are put behind bars. Those who commit these actions are sexual abusers and must be held responsible.
Even if the facility is separated by gender, the chances that a woman will experience sex-based violence is higher than for nearly any other population. In April 2022, a large personal injury law firm sued the New York Department of Corrections for systemic and ongoing issues at the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC or “Rosie’s”), part of the Rikers Island prison facility. The suit alleged that acts of severe sexual abuse had been occurring for a full decade.
Other facilities that have a history of unaddressed sexual assault and abuse for inmates include:
- MacLaren Hall Children’s Center
- Youth Detention Center New Hampshire
- Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility (‘Lakeview”)
- Albion Correctional Facility (“Albion”)
Although women comprise only 10% of the inmate population, they are the victims of as much as 30% of reported sexual abuse cases in correctional facilities. Other affected populations include those who are gay, transgender, disabled, or young. The U.S. Department of Justice found that even before women inmates were imprisoned, they had likely already been victimized by others in their lives. As many as 37% of female prisoners had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18.
Statistics indicating the prevalence of sexual abuse and assault on women inmates led to a committee that established the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). This law was signed in September 2003 and provides funding to correctional institutions to fight against the factors that
lead to prisoner abuse. It supports additional and ongoing research to identify facilities and causes for prison rape and created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission that drafts standards for these purposes. The final standards were published and put into force in August 2012.
Federal prison employees are expressly forbidden to commit sexual assault under 18 U.S.C. § 2243(b). The crime is a felony carrying up to 15 years of prison, yet the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reports that between 2012 and 2020:
- Two-thirds of federal facilities in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) with women inmates found cases of sexual assault by male employees, including senior officials.
- Over 5,400 internal investigations were opened to examine the occurrence of sexual abuse against both male and female prisoners.
- BOP failed to identify these perpetrators and hold them accountable by not responding or analyzing instances of sexual abuse against women inmates.
- Rather than address these cases, BOP facility administrators were able to transfer victims to other prisons to avoid detection by auditors.
- Despite claiming a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual abuse of prisoners, BOP officials were unable to identify any clear actions taken to charge offenders with their crimes or reduce the occurrences of sexual assaults against women in prison.
A report from Amnesty International USA found women are subjected to abuse in conjunction with other behaviors intended to keep them silent. The report on Massachusetts facilities indicated guards used actions such as retaliation and intimidation to keep victims afraid and humiliated. Because the officials were allowed to abuse inmates with impunity, the women felt powerless to do anything about their situations.
Most of the sexual assault cases against prison facilities reported in the media are in New York State. This is because the New York legislature passed the Adult Survivors Act in May 2022, allowing a “lookback window” for those who were abused as children to seek justice against their abusers. This included those who had suffered this treatment in prisons and jails at the hands of other inmates or law enforcement officials. Unfortunately, the window closed on November 24, 2023. However, victims can still seek guidance and legal representation from a law firm with experience in managing sexual abuse
cases. Many of these attorneys will offer a free initial consultation to determine the validity and strength of your case and then work on a contingency basis. This allows victims to have their day in court without putting up a large retainer. Settling a claim can take some time, however, and these plaintiffs may look for funding options to help them pay bills before the case is completed.
Even if you don’t live in the New York area, you are still eligible to seek compensation if you have been a victim of sexual assault in a prison or jail. An attorney in your area can investigate your situation and identify all those at fault. They will then build a case to hold them accountable. Every person who has suffered this treatment while behind bars deserves dignity and to have their rights protected.
Although your lawyer may offer free case reviews and contingency fees, there are still expenses you will need to cover until your claim is settled. If you are still in jail or prison, your family may need help supporting themselves. If you have been released, the challenges of finding employment and housing can be burdensome as a former inmate.
Society is not built to help those who are trying to rebuild their lives after serving time, and even less so when women have been victimized by an uncaring justice system. Because you will still need to pay your bills, you may look for sources of funding to help you manage until you can receive compensation from your case. This is where Direct Legal Funding can help.
We offer non-recourse loans that don’t require you to pay us back if your case is unsuccessful. Our interest rates are low, we don’t ask for a credit check, and we can get the money to you within 24 hours after your request is approved. If they agree to our terms, your attorney will handle paying back your sexual abuse lawsuit loan before you receive the rest of your financial relief. Contact us to learn more about how to get started today.