In loving memory of Rodney Hulin, Jr
By Soaring Eagle, Texas
When I was transferred from the county jail to a unit where I waited to come to my ID unit, I was naïve to the things that really occurred in prison.
I have been incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the past 6 ½ years now. It seems more and more I read about Safe Prisons and PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act).
After reading some of the articles the survivors have written I thought I would finally share my story — a non-fiction story that I have started many times. I want to share this with others besides the inmates on my unit. I finally chose to tell my story after hearing about a former fellow-inmate who also had a non-fiction story: Rodney Hulin, Jr.
When I was transferred from the county jail to a unit where I waited to come to my ID unit, I was naïve to the things that really occurred in prison. I believed what I saw in movies which was if I kept my mouth shut, minded my own business and followed the rules I would be ok. So that’s just what I did. Of course, I heard prison stories in the county jail that were just like the movies, but I thought that’s exactly what they were – stories. Until one day, something terrible happened — and it happened to me.
One of my bunkies, whom I had considered a friend, and another girl raped me. Why me? What did I do to deserve that?
Several other inmates saw what was happening to me and still did nothing. They turned their backs, kept their mouths shut, and minded their own business, just as I had planned to do. Even my so-called friends did nothing to help. Perhaps they were scared, too scared in fact to step up and help me. Maybe they thought it would happen to them if they said or did anything, or perhaps they thought they would get cut up with a prison-fabricated shank. Whatever the reason, it became my own personal nightmare. I still deal with this issue and will never forget the helplessness I felt that day.
When I was finally assigned to my ID unit, in 2004, I requested to become a PREA peer educator. I had the chance to go through one of the best experiences of my life, by learning and then sharing that knowledge with my fellow inmates. I was educating my peers on such topics as women’s health and communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, STDs, and Hepatitis. As a peer educator, I also helped teach about the Safe Prisons Program and PREA. Some people believe that if a person commits a crime, they will get what they deserve. You know how it goes, “Don’t drop the soap,” “Fresh meat,” or “Look what he did to come to prison” Right? Wrong!
As my story shows, rape does not only happen to the male prison population, just like how in the free world rape does not only happen to the female population. Though correctional officers believe that most of us are nothing but drama, things actually happen; like what happened to Rodney and myself, a woman, and countless. Whether you’re straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender, it doesn’t matter, rape is still rape, whether it happens behind wire fences or not.
When the attacks happened to Rodney, myself and others, there was no Safe Prison Program or PREA; no one to turn to. Rodney tried several times to get help from the guards but they sent him right back to the same cell with his assailant. Basically they sat back and laughed at him and his situation. Rodney even wrote I-127s (Step 1s) and I-128s (Step 2) and wrote his mother. But he was still brushed off, and his mom was too.
Rodney never got any relief from his nightmare. Sadly, Rodney hung himself in his cell just two days before he was to be released. Two days!
It took a few years after I became an educator to share my story. I was too terrified and too ashamed to tell anyone I was raped, especially since I had it in my mind that nobody would believe that a bisexual female was raped by other women. I was a victim and I did not like it. It also made me realize some hard truths about why I was here and made me think about the people I hurt. They did not deserve to be victims any more than people like Rodney, myself, and others who have been victimized in here.
We are incarcerated for our crimes and to do the time we were given and to learn from our mistakes. The world does not stop turning and the people do not stop living. However, we also are not sent here to be victimized and punished by fellow offenders or, yes, even by the guards. Now, I have to live with what sent me to prison and the memory of what happened to me once I got here. It is hard to face it, but I shared my story today because I want to help new inmates — men, women; human beings — who come through these razor-wire fences, so they will know times have and are still changing and they can get help. When Rodney came into the system, as I and countless others did, he did not know what signs to look for. But I have learned through my experience as a peer educator, as well as from my nightmare, what they are.
I pray and hope in sharing a little of Rodney’s story and mine it will help someone else from going through the same nightmare. My mind constantly asks questions that I’m sure will forever go unanswered. I refuse to be a victim; I am a survivor and I’m stronger today.
For those who may have personally known Rodney, please do not let him be forgotten. In closing this tribute I want to say I am so very deeply sorry, Rodney, that you endured what you did. I have battled with the same nightmare and I also want to say you have touched my life and heart and if it was not for hearing about you and what you had to go through I do not think I would have ever had the strength to tell my story either. Though we never met in person I feel as if I know you. I will forever have a place in my thoughts and heart for you. You are and will always be more than just another TDCJ# and fellow inmate, you will be a brother to me and to many of us.
In loving memory of Rodney Hulin, Jr.
— Soaring Eagle, Texas