A transgender woman being held at Rikers Island in a men’s prison pending her trial is suing the New York City Department of Correction after she says she was sexually assaulted in prison three times despite her repeated requests to be transferred to a women’s facility.
“How many more of our community have to go through hardship, how many more of us have to get hurt before [the Correction Department] realizes that they need to do something about the way that transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals are being treated?” Latee Brockington, 31, told the New York Daily News.
She said that the first time she was sexually assaulted in prison was on June 12, 2020 – a month after she was first arrested – when she was on suicide watch and an officer let another inmate into her cell. The other inmate choked her until she was unconscious and raped her.
She was transferred to a women’s prison for six months, but then the Department of Correction sent her back to a men’s facility, citing “security concerns” that were never explained, according to medical records.
Five days after she was sent back to the men’s facility, she said a second attack occurred.
“I was in the shower when two other male inmates came into the shower and forcefully assaulted me,” she said. One of the alleged attackers had a knife.
The third sexual assault happened the next week in a holding pen.
Staff at Rikers knew she didn’t want to be in a men’s facility.
“She is feeling uncomfortable here, since this jail was [the] site of her previous sexual assault,” wrote one staffer in her records. The staffer wrote that she was transferred back to the men’s facility for “unclear reasons.”
Brockington reported each sexual assault and was hospitalized each time, according to the suit, but was still forced into men’s facilities.
“In all three incidents I went to Bellevue Hospital to do a rape DNA test and semen was found in all three of the incidents,” she said.
Brockington has not been found guilty of a crime. Instead, she was being held pending her trial in a robbery case. She posted bail on April 13, 2021, after all three of the alleged assaults took place, but was arrested again on a new robbery charge in August 2021.
She pled not guilty but can’t post bail again. She is still living in constant fear in the male facility.
“Why not have me in a housing unit by myself but still inside the female facility for my safety?” she asked.
“Sexual assault and abuse in our jails is absolutely unacceptable. We take allegations very seriously and investigate them all,” the Department of Correction said in a statement.