Trans Woman Sent to Men’s Prison After Alleging Rape by Guard

TRIGGER WARNING: Material about sexual assault.

Recently, a woman was allegedly orally raped by a prison guard at Riverside Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. She reported the assault to authorities and an investigation was opened. During that investigation, officials learned that she was not a cisgender woman, as they had apparently been assuming, and promptly transferred her to a men’s prison.

The woman, whose name has been released to the public by prison authorities and the media in violation of the conventions in sexual assault cases, has now had her rights violated many times over. She was violated when a prison guard allegedly entered her cell and forced her to perform oral sex on him. She was violated when her brave decision to report assault resulted in an investigation that placed her under scrutiny and revoked her right to privacy. She was violated when she was sent to a men’s prison, both denying her true gender and placing her at extreme risk of further physical and sexual violence. And she was violated when her name was released and spread without concern for her privacy or safety.

Clearly, trans prison inmates are not seen to be deserving of the same rights as their cis, non-inmate counterparts. Her cousin strongly believes that the transfer to a men’s prison is retaliation for her rape allegations.

If true, this would mean that the Pennsylvania prison system essentially punished an inmate for reporting rape by subjecting her to likely future rapes. (Fifty-nine percent of trans women are sexually assaulted while incarcerated, and the vast majority of trans women inmates are housed in men’s facilities.) Even if retaliation was not the primary motive behind the transfer, the facts remain the same: A victim of prison rape has not been protected, but instead placed in a position where future prison rape is more likely than not.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, however, is far more concerned with the victim’s gender presentation and genitals than with the allegation that she was raped by a prison guard who had control over every aspect of her daily life. Indeed, they seem more concerned about the threat that the woman allegedly presented to her fellow prisoners merely by existing:

A source close to the prison system, who asked not to be identified, complained that the slip-up “jeopardized a lot of women over there [at Riverside],” adding that [the victim] tallied at least two infractions for fighting with other inmates during [the victim]’s stint in the female jail. On average, Riverside houses about 730 inmates daily, Hawes said.

Of course, it’s not noted how many “infractions” most inmates at Riverside have or whether the victim is the one who instigated the fights. It’s also not explained how, exactly, she is more of a threat than any other inmate at the prison. We’re simply supposed to “understand” that trans women are “really men,” and therefore threatening to all cis women.

Through this defamatory portrayal, we are supposed to forget that the alleged sexually violent perpetrator was a cis man. Only in a kyriarchal society could the black trans woman who was allegedly raped and then placed in a position where she is very likely to be raped again be rhetorically transformed into the “real” sexual threat.

This woman’s safety has been severely jeopardized. She needs protection and recovery services, not an incredibly more dangerous set of surroundings and public outing. The prison system has behaved abysmally, showing a blatant disregard for inmate safety. Rape is not supposed to be a part of the punishment for any crime. And this rule isn’t only supposed to apply if you’re cis.

Excerpted from The Curvature. Read the full story here.

Photo from Flickr user C.P.Storm under Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. Vegan Power says:

    well i’m guessing he is a post-op or this mistake would not have been made. its not that im not sympathetic to prison rapes, but if you need to be locked in a cage then i guess i dont care which cage you are in as long as you can not get out. what happens to in that cage is something perhaps you should’ve considered long before you made a choice to break a law that landed you in there in the first place…

    • Vegan Power says:

      maybe we should spend extra money to build special cages just for Trans people…? would that help?

    • Harlot Overdrive says:

      She, not he.

    • Cara Kulwicki says:

      I find this comment repugnant. This woman’s genitals are none of your business, anymore than yours are to me, and your decision to misgender her is blatantly hateful and dehumanizing.

      Further, it’s always nice to see that we believe rape is wrong, but only when it’s against people who meet our personal approval. Don’t like someone? Apparently rapists have free reign. You’re right that prison is akin to locking people in cages; you just seem to actually approve of the practice, while I do not. Nevertheless, again, rape is not supposed to be a punishment for any crime. If you think that inmates should be open targets for rapists, I can’t stop you, but the last thing it makes you is feminist or anti-rape.

      “You should have thought about that before” is the same exact excuse that rape apologists make against victims who were drinking at the time of an assault, who went home with their assailants, who were wearing a short skirt, who did not leave an abusive partner, right on down the line. The fact that black women and trans women are both so overrepresented in the criminal justice system — and that you’re therefore only handing out a license to rape those who are already particularly vulnerable — also, apparently, does not concern you. I guess they should have thought of that, too.

      • Roxanne Gooding says:

        THANK YOU CARA for a perfect response. AMEN to everything you said!

      • Vegan Power says:

        didnt say he deserved to be raped, good grief… no one deserves it, and yes i do support putting crims in jail, where would you like to put them? perhaps they can all flat with you in your house?

        • Mimi Seldner says:


        • StrollingThrough says:

          You’re fine with someone being beat, stabbed, raped, etc. as long as you have a word for the victim, “criminal” or “faggot”.

          You said it right there. Being vague and sidestepping every thing you say so you’re not making a point or taking any position doesn’t make that the case. You have a problem with rape etc. if it happens, but if they’re in prison, you don’t give a flying fluck, because you assume they committed a crime, and you assume the crime was justifiable enough for a cage and rape.

          Oh, and prison or not you’re an ignorant hick who hates faggots.

          I’m sure you didn’t say any of that though did you, pussy. xD

          [This generation considers sarcasm and the lack of saying something an intelligent point.]

      • Belle of Acadie says:

        Amazing response to that awful, ignorant comment. Thank you!

  2. It’s nice to finally see some coverage on this that doesn’t promote transmisogyny. I don’t know if I could do anything other than call incessantly and mail things, but I hope those living in Pennsylvania will try to do something in person about this if possible. At the very least, a protest.

  3. MARY JACKSON says:

    It seems to me that sending her (I know) to a mens prison is wrong on every level!! What is wrong with those people? If anything, maybe solitary confinement to keep her safe in the womens prison. I wonder if maybe they think they should punish her some more for reporting the rape in the first place. Just saying…… Wrong!!!!!

  4. “If true, this would mean that the Pennsylvania prison system essentially punished an inmate for reporting rape by subjecting her to likely future rapes.”

    So they apparently punish many men by subjecting them to likely future rapes. What about protecting men in men’s prisons, who are at risk for rapes? I agree she should have been able to stay in the women’s prison, and to be a woman in a men’s prison would be terrifying. But men in those prisons have to deal with rape as well, and people should be talking about that too.

  5. This literally made me nauseous. It’s hard to find words when I’m this angry, but I’ll do my best. First, I’d like to mention that I haven’t heard about this until right now. I watch the news often, and this never came up. That’s shocking. Second, it’s unfathomable to me that ANY woman of ANY background could be anything but sickened by this. I don’t give a damn if you’re a man, woman, manwoman, womanman, pre-op, post-op, or no-op. RAPE IS RAPE. Regardless of what genitalia she used to sport, she is a woman. If she has to serve prison time, it should be in women’s prison. I can only imagine what straight men in prison think about when it comes to women, considering they have very limited contact to their girlfriends or wives or lovers. Why on earth would anyone put a woman in there? In my opinion, this is cruel and unusual punishment. I thought we had laws against this? I don’t know what my actions will do in this case, but I am in severe unrest over this bullshit. However many letters and calls it takes, I can’t just let this happen to her. You have no idea what rape is like unless you’ve experienced it yourself. It is nothing to take lightly. This is a fucking disgrace. (I don’t apologize at all for the language I’ve used. I am sick to my stomach with anger right now.)

  6. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH. I think I am honestly losing faith in society. First that poor disabled girl in Missouri, and now this–WHAT THE HELL KIND OF SYSTEM DO WE HAVE, THAT BASICALLY DISREGARDS RAPE AND PLACES THE VICTIM IN A SITUATION WHERE IT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN? How do you think that makes me feel, as a woman? NOT SAFE–not from rapists (at least not right now, sitting inside at home) as much as from our supposed American justice system that does nothing!!

    Sorry for the rant, I’m just pissed off.

  7. While I *think* I understand the outrage that fueled this assertion:

    Clearly, trans prison inmates are not seen to be deserving of the same rights as their cis, non-inmate counterparts. Her cousin strongly believes that the transfer to a men’s prison is retaliation for her rape allegations.

    I want to point out that cisgender women in prison are also retaliated against when reporting or resisting rape and other sexual abuse by prison staff members.

    Clearly, the transfer is retaliatory. Prison staff punish prisoners who speak up about being raped or sexually abused in any way. (Cisgender men in prison who report or resist sexual abuse are also targeted for retaliation)

    Are there people/groups in Pennsylvania doing support work for her?

  8. Also, more about transgender women in Pennsylvania’s male prisons can be found here:

    I’m going to contact the group Hearts on a Wire, who put out this report, to see if they have some ideas for supporting this woman through her ordeal.

  9. “Rape is not supposed to be a part of the punishment for any crime.” This is very true, rape is horrific worldwide in some countries its the norm. The violence of rape is uncalled for on any human person. First lets recall for pedophile its known the predator is kept when incarcerated in certain areas of the jails and prisons for their protection. Knowing we have trans – gender people in society the same rule should apply. We have to forget as awful as it may seem to us personally, these people have rights, legal rights just as much as anyone else.

    During the booking procedure it should be asked what gender are you? What sex are you? Not your sex organ. These two questions could assist where the person needs to be placed in the facility to prevent such abusive actions from less likely happening. I say less likely, because we have prison guards that are suppose to work and protect these jails and prisons from the very abuses that have taken place and yet they are not professional, they break the law and violate the very people that are doing the time. Is this right, because a person f**uck*s up in society and does time, they should be raped? Now who is in the wrong? Frankly I am so sick of hearing how correctional officers and street cops get away with breaking the laws, they should be fired from such horrific acts of poor conducted, sexual abuse and stripped of any benefits relevant to their position, but instead they get a desk job and still retire with benefits.

    Correctional officers have no right to work in any legal system being sexual predators themselves and inducing physical and sexual abuse on others. In addition police officers need to be educated, their ignorance is no excuse for how they perform their jobs.

    • Asking what gender you are is not a good idea, although it is well intentioned. If I were ever in the position of going to prison, I would not even hesitate to declare my gender as being a woman. And if I were ever caught in sexual acts with other women, I would simply declare that I was also a lesbian. As a man, I would much prefer being in a women’s prison for many reasons, such as being surrounded by women and away from male inmates. And every man would do the same. This is why, I suspect, she was sent to a man’s prison. Gender is really not a very clear or simple thing. You may know what you are, but how do you prove that when your genitals don’t match how you feel? Especially with something that requires “official” paperwork? They need a standard to use, and one that is accurate and reliable, which is why they are forced to use the system of penis = men’s prison, vagina = women’s prison.

      It may be unfair, but so is the rate of men being raped in prison. All men, not just transwomen, or whatever the correct term is.

  10. It’s sad that he had to go threw that….however she was born a man and has been place where she belongs. It doesn’t matter how much he paid to change his sex he’s still a man. If they was to place him in a women prison and got to a fight with a real women he will over power her because at the end of the day a man is stronger then a woman. He’s where he needs to be. The prison just have to keep them apart from the straight men.

  11. I am very disturbed by The Inquirer story. The story makes it sound like Saldana was up to something nefarious from the start (it’s said she “suckered the system” in being placed in a facility designated for women), and her subterfuge was just now discovered, and now the top priority is to prevent that kind of “mistake” from ever happening again. We’re meant to understand that the male prison guard’s alleged sexual assault against Saldana is only notable because it led to Saldana’s devious scheme being uncovered.

  12. I am a transgender male, full beard, completely pass, have been on hormones for 8 yrs and have no chest, i was housed in the women’s prison and unlawfully searched multiple times after clearance that i had my original plumbing. My legal documents have all been changed to male yet due to the fact that i have not had bottom surgery it was required that i was housed in the women’s facility, Loca is the trans woman in question here and was pre op, the only option is being housed in whatever prison your genitals match but you can choose to be put in protective custody or ad seg.


  1. […] sentiment. But that would be a mistake: Transgender inmates have reported rape and assault in Philadelphia, Manhattan, San Francisco, and in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Eloy, […]

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