EXCLUSIVE: New Documentary Details Female Sexual Assault Survivor’s Story Of Being Incarcerated With Trans Inmate

A sexual assault survivor gave an inside look at living in a female prison with male criminals identifying as transgender in a new documentary by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) released Tuesday.

The 6-minute documentary, part of IWF’s “Cruel & Unusual Punishment: The Male Takeover of Female Prisons” series, focuses on the story of Evelyn Valiente, a sexual assault survivor and former inmate at the Central California Women’s Facility. Valiente, who is using a pseudonym to protect her identity, was forced to share a housing unit with a male inmate identifying as a woman while serving time for killing someone in a shooting.

“At first I thought it was going to be okay and it didn’t take long before this one particular individual was manipulative, calculating, vindictive and always looking and seeking to do harm to another person,” Valiente said regarding the inmate, who had a history of sex crime convictions.

In 2020, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed legislation requiring the state’s prison system to house inmates based on their gender identity and not their biological sex. Under the law, corrections officers are required to ask inmates privately how they identify and then work to house them accordingly.

Before her time in prison, Valiente had been sexually assaulted, and said that being in the same housing unit as this individual, who had been convicted of sex crimes, as well as other men made it “scary” not only for her but for many women who had “come from very abusive backgrounds.”

“It’s a lot of walking in trauma,” Valiente said.

WATCH:

Andrea Mew, IWF’s storytelling manager and co-producer of the documentary series, told the DCNF that while California lawmakers claimed that the transgender inmate bill was about keeping inmates safe, the law actually further victimized women in prison who often have been abused.

“It’s really interesting that California, at the same time that they are focusing on being all about rehabilitation, are subjecting women to being re-traumatized by a lot of their personal triggers,” Mew said. “Many women who are in prison are victims of sexual assault, emotional abuse, physical abuse and having men in their spaces can be a very big trigger for them. At the same time, it’s allowing violent male criminals to have unbridled access to, in many cases, the thing that got them there in the first place.”

Mary Xjimenez, a CDCR information officer, told the DCNF that they are “committed to providing a safe, humane, respectful and rehabilitative environment for all incarcerated people.”

“Senate Bill 132, The Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act, became effective on January 1, 2021. It allows incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex people to request to be housed and searched in a manner consistent with their gender identity,” Xjimenez explained in a written statement. “CDCR reviews every request to be transferred under Senate Bill 132 to determine whether that move, based on the individual’s case factors, would present a safety and management concern. At all our institutions, CDCR thoroughly investigates all allegations of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment pursuant to our zero-tolerance policy and as mandated by the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.”

Currently, five states: ConnecticutRhode IslandMassachusetts; California and New Jersey as well as New York City; have passed laws allowing men identifying as women to be housed in women’s prisons. However, other states, such as Wisconsin, have reportedly moved biologically male offenders identifying as transgender into all-female facilities despite their violent criminal history.

In September 2023, a female inmate sued the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in New Jersey after allegedly being assaulted in prison by a male inmate identifying as transgender. Another female inmate from New York City filed a lawsuit in January, claiming that a prison official instructed a male inmate who reportedly sexually assaulted her to identify as transgender so he could have “access to female inmates.”

Mew told the DCNF that she and co-producer Kelsey Bolar wanted people to imagine how they would feel if someone they loved in prison was forced to share a cell or a housing unit with a transgender inmate with a history of violence.

“People need to put themselves in the shoes of people who are in prison and just imagine yourself in there, imagine your own daughter in there,” Mew said. “There are a lot of things that could happen that could get you into prison that are complete accidents, so imagine yourself or your own daughter is in that sort of accident. Put yourself in the shoes of the person there and think about how it would feel if you’re being physically, emotionally and in some cases, as we’ve seen, sexually threatened by male criminals while you’re just trying to do your time and get home.”

AUTHOR

KATE ANDERSON

Contributor.

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