Survivor Stories




There had been some on-going publicity about my very barbarous entry into Washington State’s prison system, by the Seattle Gay News, because I am a male to female transsexual. The jail had taken away my estrogen, and I was going through withdrawal cold turkey. I was not only an emotional mess, but hot and cold at the same time, with uncontrollable itching. The prison personnel seemed obsessed with making me a man. They denied me a razor so I could have a “manly” beard. They beleaguered me with gender and sexual slurs, and chanted “mister” at me. They constantly told me that I have a penis, while calling me John.

Right off the chain (prisoner slang for the bus ride to prison or transport), at Washington Correction Center in Shelton, I was placed in the Close Observation Unit (COU) on suicide watch. They left me in clothes. Still, I was in a glass cell, and constantly being observed.

One afternoon, two guards and a sergeant entered the unit. They had come to get me and indicated that I had no choice in the matter. They put me in leg chains and chained my wrist to my waist. The three escorted me to a hospital bed within the infirmary. The COU is contained in the infirmary. I was then chained to the bed and my one-piece overalls were taken down. I was held down by the sergeant and one guard, while the other guard raped me. The men taunted, “So you want to be a woman,” and “we’ll show you how to be a woman.” The second guard took his turn and was even rougher. The three then took me back to my cell in the COU part of the infirmary, the overalls still down to my waist. They unchained me and left me crying in the cell.

When the guard watching over us in the COU was convinced that I was stable, I was able to talk him into letting me use the phone. I tried to call 911, to report the rape. I was afraid to tell anyone in or around the COU. Since I couldn’t make the 911 call from the prison, I called my then-significant other in Seattle, and he called the Shelton Police for me. The plan was that a police detective would come and interview me by morning.

However, at 3:30am, I was chained up again. This time I was escorted to a vehicle and driven to the Washington State Penitentiary. I was placed in the infirmary on the third floor, in the mental health ward. I was there two weeks and no one would listen to me about the rape. One mental health counselor lied and said a rape kit was done, and it was inconclusive. I requested a rape kit, but none was ever given. I was then housed at the penitentiary’s Five Wing Unit in mental health.

Still, prison staff won’t talk to me about the rape. I’ve been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but receive no treatment. Since the rape, I continue to be subjected to sexual harassment, by both prison guards and inmates; though it is prison personnel who harass me the most.

On November 9, 2010, I was sexually accosted in a janitor’s closet in the Baker Unit, by another inmate. There were two witnesses and this inmate was already sent to the hole for having sex with another prisoner. My witnesses were never interviewed and my order to “keep separate” from the perpetrator was arbitrarily lifted. He lives in the next pod and mocks me daily over this.

There is no one to talk to about this at the prison or outside.

– Sarah, Washington