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The Brutal Horror of Prison Rape, as Told by Its Victims

Speaking out to put an end to the thousands of men and women who have become the victims of sexual violence.

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by Bryson Martel:

While I was in an Arkansas state prison, I was raped by at least 27 different inmates over a nine month period. I don't have to tell you that it was the worst nine months of my life.

In 1991, I was sentenced to six years in prison on a probation violation. I was originally convicted of forging a check to buy crack cocaine. When I went to prison, I was young, skinny, and bisexual. I was scared to death.

As soon as I got there, inmates started acting like they were my fi-iends so they could take advantage of me. They jumped on me and beat me. Within two weeks, I was raped at knifepoint.

Being raped at knifepoint was the worst thing I could ever imagine. The physical pain was devastating. But the emotional pain was even worse.

I reported the rape, and was sent into protective custody. But I wasn't safe there either. They put all kinds of people in protective custody, including sexual predators. I was put in a cell with a rapist who had full-blown AIDS. Within two days, he forced me to give him oral sex and anally raped me. I yelled for the guard, but no one came to help me. I finally had to flood the cell to get a guard to come.

Because I was raped, I got labeled as a "faggot." Everywhere I walked, everyone looked at me like I was a target. It opened the door for a lot of other predators. Even the administrators thought it was okay for a "faggot" to be raped. They said, 'Oh, you must like it.' No one wants to be raped. No one likes being violently attacked.

I documented the abuse, I filed grievances, I followed all of the procedures to report what was happening to me, but no one cared. They just moved me fi-om cell to cell. This went on for nine months. I went through nine months of torture - nine months of hell - that could have been avoided.

In August, I started bleeding really bad from the rectum. I didn't want to go to the infirmary, because I was still so ashamed about what had happened to me, but I had to. They gave me a test, and that's when I got the devastating news. I was HIV-positive. I felt suicidal. I felt like my world had come to an end. I cried and cried. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, degraded, and humiliated. I haven't forgotten those feelings. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about this.

Finally, I was placed in a cell by myself in administrative segregation. The only way I could stay safe was to deliberately disobey the rules so I could get away from my predators.

Eventually, I was interviewed by an investigator from the State Folice, and I made a report of every assault I survived in prison. I had to list all the inmates who sexually assaulted me, and I came up with 27 names. Sometimes just one inmate assaulted me, and sometimes they attacked me in groups. It went on almost every day for the nine months I spent in that facility.

In 2002, I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. I can't even count how many medications I have to take every day. I can't do a lot of things I used to do. I moved from Arkansas to Michigan to be closer to my family. I wanted to get to know my family before I die.

The amount of trauma and pain I have endured cannot be put in dollars. I'm not able to work. I collect disability. Fighting for my life is my full-time job. They took my life, but they didn't take my ability to live my life.

Everything that happened to me could have been avoided if the prison was accountable for inmates' safety. Standards are needed to protect people like me. Prison officials mix all kinds of inmates together in dormitories and cells. They need to screen inmates so that vulnerable people don't get thrown in with mass murderers. I was a small, non-violent, bisexual, first-time offender. If Classification had done its job, I never would have been placed with violent predators.

I know I had to pay the price for what I did, but I've paid double price. That check I wrote cost me my life. Every day I wake up and I'm just grateful that I'm still here. I've already accepted that I'm going to die, but before I do, I want to see justice in the prison system. The only way to help me now is to put an end to rape in prison.

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