America has been reeling from case after case of reported sexual abuse of women at the hands of powerful men. From Bill Cosby to Harvey Weinstein to Steve Wynn, men who were previously viewed as too powerful to fall, fell harder and more quickly than we thought possible.
By David Todd McCarty, The Standard
s is often the case in American culture, celebrities lead the way, be it good or bad, for social change. It’s not real until it happens to someone famous. Think back to Magic Johnson and his startling admission that he was HIV positive.
But the cork is out of the bottle and the steady stream of accusations and men who have been forced to step down from their positions of power, does not seem to be abating anytime soon. Maybe now is the time to begin to shift the focus away from celebrities and toward normal people; women with even less power than famous actresses.
If you think it’s difficult for a famous woman to fend off a powerful studio executive, imagine the struggle of a Denny’s waitress whose job could be the difference between feeding her kids or being homeless. There are women in far more vulnerable situations than those in Hollywood.
On Thursday, the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women will be the focus of a New Jersey State Senate Sub Committee over claims that years of sexual assault by guards was known about and largely ignored.
Under New Jersey law (NJ 2C:14-2-C), an inmate cannot enter into a consensual sexual relationship with a person in a supervisory or disciplinary role by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational status. This makes it illegal for a prison guard to have even consensual sex with an inmate.
It’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable human being than a women being sexually assaulted by a person of authority in prison.
In 2010, the Department of Corrections fired three officers after it substantiated claims that they had engaged in or helped cover up sex abuse, but lacking DNA and video evidence, the prosecutor’s office declined to criminally charge them. Since then, there have been a total of seven, male prison guards charged with having inappropriate sexual contact with an inmate. Several guards have been convicted, but no one in the administration has been charged with misconduct.
Critics claim that administrators knew this was a problem for years and did nothing to stop it. The accusations include guards trading sexual favors for contraband or forcing female prisoners to commit sexual acts under threat of violence or disciplinary charges.