Courage comes in many different forms. For Esmeralda a transgender asylum seeker from Mexico who faced horrific circumstances in immigration detention, it came in the form of seeking justice. Kept in a segregated cell with other transgender detainees, Esmeralda never realized that her experience in detention would match the trauma of discrimination she had faced back home.
Jailed for an act of civil disobedience in 1968, Tom was locked in an overcrowded cell where he was beaten and raped for 24 hours. The inmates attacked him after guards told them Tom was a child molester and promised special privileges for 'teaching him a lesson.' Despite suffering long-term emotional and mental trauma, Tom later became a leader in the fight against prisoner rape, including serving as President of JDI.
Still in high school, Chance was 18 years old when he was arrested on drug possession charges. He was repeatedly raped, targeted in part because of his youth. Chance's struggles with homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health show how the devastation of sexual assault can continue for years after survivors are released from detention.
At the age of 15, Chino was the victim of an attempted rape by an older inmate while incarcerated in a New York adult correctional institution. Today, Chino works as an organizer around issues related to youth incarceration, gang violence and the prison industrial complex.
Bryson Martel (formerly Kendall Spruce), 1963-2010, was raped by more than 25 other inmates over the course of nine months during his incarceration at an Arkansas state prison. He contracted HIV as a result of the attacks. Although he repeatedly reported the attacks, prison officials failed to provide Mr. Martel, who weighed only 123 pounds at the time, a safe housing environment. He lived in Michigan.
Keith was repeatedly raped by a gang member while housed in a dormitory with 150 other inmates at a federal prison in Michigan. Although he had told prison officials of his assailant’s threats, nothing was done to protect Mr. DeBlasio, who contracted HIV as a result of the rapes.
A corrections officer raped Garrett while he was an inmate at a Texas state prison. Today, Mr. Cunningham runs a prison pen pal service and testified before the Texas Legislature at a hearing on a state law aimed at addressing sexual violence in Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities.
Cecilia, a transgender woman, was raped while held over the weekend in a San Francisco jail. Her story is similar to many transgender women, who typically are placed in men's facilities and face an extreme risk of sexual abuse. She now is a nationally recognized activist defending transgender people's right to be free of violence and abuse.
After being wrongfully arrested and taken to a Philadelphia lock-up, Erica and her female friend were forced to perform sex acts on one another by a police officer. Although she faced tremendous barriers in her efforts to hold the Philadelphia Police Department accountable, a recent independent investigation substantiated her allegations.