Jane Doe, a woman who smuggled out clothing with DNA evidence on it after she was raped by a guard at Rikers won her $500,000 settlement in a civil lawsuit against the city in a rare victory on Monday, the Intercept reported.
According to the Intercept, Jose Cosme, the guard who sexually assaulted Jane Doe, cornered her in an office. Jane Doe accused another officer, Leonard McNeil, of arranging the rape after Cosme found out that McNeil had a sexual relationship with Jane Doe (any sexual relationship is considered non-consensual between a guard and a incarcerated person under New York law). McNeil was neither prosecuted nor disciplined.
Because she had reported sexual abuse before and never heard back, and seen other women retaliated against for their formal complaints, Jane Doe decided to work outside the system to try to get any semblance of justice. Here’s how the Intercept described what she did after the rape:
The guard who sexually assaulted Jane Doe, Jose Cosme, had ejaculated onto her breasts. Back in her cell after the assault and still in shock, Jane Doe used a white T-shirt to wipe it off. Then she called for medical help and told a nurse that the officer had hurt her. Without examining her, a doctor decided that she was having a panic attack and instructed the nurse to “put ice on her,” then sent her back to her cell after less than 10 minutes. There, Jane Doe ripped the white T-shirt she had used to clean up and later that night, she went to an office at the jail where she worked a cleaning shift and mailed one piece of the shirt to her sister and another to a friend. Days later, during a visit, she gave that same friend another shirt she had been wearing at the time of the assault.
Two weeks later—after she had already smuggled out the DNA evidence—Jane Doe reported the assault.
As a result of the prosecution, Cosme was fired from his job and put on 10 years of probation, but was not sentenced prison time. After Jane Doe reported the assault, she faced verbal harassment from other guards at Rikers.
Rikers, meanwhile, remains a hotbed of sexual abuse:
A Department of Justice survey found that between 2011 and 2012, 8.6 percent of the women incarcerated at Rikers reported being sexually victimized there; 5.9 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted by staff. That’s compared to 3.2 percent of incarcerated individuals reporting being sexually victimized nationwide. A different report by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, while not focused on sexual assault, warned that the DOC was “under-reporting” sexual assault allegations and questioned the department’s compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA.
In other words, this shit just keeps on happening. Maybe—just maybe--it’s time to shut the whole thing down.