Jordan Riak's letter of July 22, 2001 to Women's Enews
(WOMENSENEWS)--A 13-year-old girl was routinely stripped-searched at a Connecticut juvenile center after she refused repeated orders from a judge to attend her seventh grade classes, The New York Times reported.
The girl, now 14, along with another juvenile recently has brought a lawsuit against the state authorities for the search that took place in October.
"The lady told me I had to take off my clothes so they could look for scars so that I can't go home and say they did it and my parents can sue," she said.
"I was embarrassed. I don't like taking my clothes off in front of anyone."
It is standard procedure at the center to strip-search all the children who enter the facility, even if they are just returning from court or if they are moved to other facilities, the Times reported. The center holds 2249 teens--everyone from truants to children accused of violent crimes.
The other plaintiff in the lawsuit, a 15-year-old girl, was sent to detention after disobeying orders not to run away.
She has been treated for depression and as a child was sexually abused by a boy in her neighborhood.
Being strip-searched at the center "brought back everything I had gone through," she said. She said she has been strip-searched by detention centers about a half-dozen times.
Connecticut officials said they must strip-search all juveniles in detention to check for drugs or weapons, as well as for signs of abuse that could require treatment.
"It is really for the overall security of detainees," said William H. Carbone, executive director of court support services for Connecticut's judicial branch.--Jessica McRorie
Jordan Riak's letter of July 22, 2001 to Women's Enews:
The use of the "strip search" against children in custodial settings is nothing more nor less than legalized sexual assault. If the purported value of the practice could be backed up by data on the incidence of children found hiding contraband on (or in) their persons, the searchers and their apologists would quickly do that. They'd brandish the evidence. But they don't. They know that once they admit to how rarely they find what they claim they are searching for, the justification for the searches would evaporate, and so would their fun.
Along similar lines, I became aware of a prison-like private religious school for girls where every new girl was required to disrobe and have her private areas sprayed with Black Flag insecticide by the school's director. It was an initiation ceremony of sorts. The explanation given to the victim was that this is a precaution against having parasites brought into the institution by newcomers.
In these acts, perverted sex and untrammeled power merge in a way that is only possible behind locked doors where adults are given absolute power over children. The essential message to every victim is this: "You're nothing. You're nobody. Since I can do this to you, I can do anything. I own you body and soul, and don't you dare forget it."