BY AVIVA SHEN ON AUGUST 7, 2013 AT 9:57 AM
The guard, Angelo Vickers, is serving a 7-year sentence after pleading guilty to molestation of a juvenile. The woman, known anonymously as Mary Doe, is now an emotionally traumatized 20-year-old. Mary Doe sued the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government as well as her attacker, alleging the parish officials should have protected her from Vickers.
Rather than assume liability or try to shift the scrutiny solely on the guard, the parish’s defense strategy is simply to blame the victim. Court papers claim, “Vickers could not have engaged in sexual relations within the walls of the detention center with [the victim] without cooperation from her. Vickers did not use force, violence or intimidation when engaging in sexual relations.”
“These girls in the detention center are not Little Miss Muffin,” one official toldthe Tri-Parish Times.
Of course, the defense is flagrantly at odds with Louisiana law, which states no one under 17 years old can consent to sex. Moreover, the obvious power a guard wields over a prisoner makes any sexual relationship suspect, even without proof of physical force or overt threats.
The Terrebonne juvenile prison was exposed by a Department of Justice investigation in 2010 for arbitrarily putting children in isolation cells and leaving guards unsupervised. Several staffers were fired and even indicted for exchanging candy, fruit, time on the telephone, and other favors in return for sex with the underage inmates.
Still, prison employees all over the country often get away with rape, and few actually serve time. One Department of Justice study found that only 56 percent of staffers who were clearly caught sexually abusing inmates were referred for prosecution, while many are released on low bonds or given negligible sentences on the grounds that their victims were in prison.
More than 1,700 boys and girls reported being sexually assaulted, but the number is likely much higher given inmates’ reluctance to report rape. Prison guards usually begin their abuse by sharing personal stories and giving young inmates gifts to create a semblance of intimacy, according to another DOJ survey.