Kim Brown says she met a lieutenant at New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 1996 or 1997 when she was sent to his office for disciplinary reasons. But the officer seemed unusually interested in her.
“He started calling me down, and I didn’t understand why,” she told The Appeal. I didn’t do anything.” Their initial meetings were “under the guise of interviewing me about things that were going on in the facility,” she said. “And then it became light. He would offer me a drink.”
Brown eventually relented to the pressure from a man with near-total control over her life inside the prison—a situation she now sees as sexual abuse. Today, Brown feels she finally has one way to fight back: She is among nearly 1,000 women filing claims so far this year as part of New York’s Adult Survivors Act (ASA), which briefly waives New York’s statute of limitations requirements to file sexual abuse lawsuits.
But while the new law is intended to address past harm, Brown is one of only a small number of women likely to be doing so from prison. For incarcerated people like Brown, filing a claim—or even talking about what happened to them—carries unique risks. Among numerous claims, currently or formerly incarcerated people have alleged that guards have coerced women into performing oral sex in plain view of others, refused to allow imprisoned people to file complaints under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, forced women to perform sex acts by threatening discipline; locked people in prison facilities and assaulted them; and a host of other serious incidents.