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Rapists in uniform #2: four more women come forward

(Via Google News.)

Four more women in northern Ohio have come forward about unnecessary and sexually humiliating strip searches by the Stark County sheriff’s office.

As I mentioned about a month ago, Hope Steffey is suing the sheriff and a gang of male and female cops and prison guards, because a year and a half ago, after she was assaulted and knocked unconscious by her cousin in a domestic dispute, her family called 911 for help, and the cop who arrived decided that the assault victim was giving him too much lip while he tried to Investigate, so he beat her up, arrested her on a bogus disorderly conduct charge, and sent her down to jail where, once handcuffed and locked in a cage, she was held down by a gang of seven cops, including at least two men, and strip searched, over her screams of protest, while the male guards wrenched her (still handcuffed) arms behind her back. After that she was left naked in her jail cell for six hours. Sheriff Tim Swanson maintains that his hired thugs are allowed to use reasonable force to make an arrest and protect prisoners in their custody, where reasonable force is cop speak for grabbing an assault victim who you were supposedly dispatched to help (the cop was there because Steffey had been knocked unconscious by her cousin during a domestic dispute) and then slamming her face-down on the hood of your car, then cuffing her, sending her to jail, gang-rape-searching her with two male officers in the cell, and then leaving her naked in her cell for six hours. The excuse for that last part is that they had to protect her by raping her because she was crazy, by which they mean that she was visibly upset, and if you can be labeled crazy then that means that cops and prison guards can do any damn thing at all to you, no matter how violent, no matter how painful, and no matter how sexually humiliating, in order to protect the hell out of you, whether you want that protection or not.

The strip search was caught on tape and it hit the news. Because of the local and national attention to the case in the news media, four more women in northern Ohio have decided to come forward about similar experiences at the hands of Sheriff Tim Swanson’s rape gang / prison suicide watch. One of them is Valentina Dyshko, who was handcuffed and locked in a cage after she voluntarily turned herself in on a misdemeanor warrant for a miscommunication with the state over which home-schooling text-books the government deems good enough for her own children. When they handcuffed her and threw her in jail, she got upset, and she couldn’t speak English, and by God, she’s obviously a dangerous home-schooling criminal, so she was declared crazy and forced to undergo a strip-search and to wear nothing but a flimsy prison-issued gown that kept falling off her chest. For three days.

Dyshko says video of Steffey’s treatment reminded her of what she experienced 2 years ago inside the same jail.

Dyshko came to North Canton nine years ago, she says, to escape the fear of KGB persecution in Ukraine. Her ordeal inside the Stark County Jail stemmed from a home schooling issue. She says there was some confusion over the use of certain textbooks. It was all a big mix-up, said her attorney Dennis Niermann.

Dyskho was educating 2 of her 8 children at home. She received a notice from the Stark County Sheriff about a warrant for her arrest from the Stark County Family Court. When Dyshko arrived at the Sheriff’s office, she says she was quickly handcuffed and thrown in jail on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

After this mother of 8 spent 3 days behind bars, a judge reviewed her case and quickly dismissed the case.

Lawyers for Dyhsko say she had to remove all her clothes because someone inside the jail determined she was suicidal. Dyshko says she’s never been suicidal. She complained to Channel 3 News that the gown she was given in the jail kept falling down, and at times, exposed her naked chest to male guards. She was asked to remove her clothes and her undergarments. What’s the purpose of that? It’s demeaning, said Niermann.

Since the Hope Steffey case made headlines, 4 more women, including Dyshko have come forward to report similar stories. Lawyer David Malik says we’re seeing a pattern where apparently every woman who cries or gets emotional is deemed suicidal.

— Tom Meyer, WKYC 3 News (2008-02-29/2008-03-06): Strip Search: Four more women come forward with similar stories

And remember, if you are deemed suicidal, government cops and government jailers will take it for granted that the best way for armed Trained Professionals to handle the situation is to hurt you, hold you down, strip you against your will, subject you to an invasive search, and lock you in a cage and leave you there, naked, for six hours at a stretch.

There is absolutely no conceivable excuse for treating anyone this way, ever. Whether man or woman, calm or belligerent, nice or nasty, crazy or sane. This is gang rape, professionalized and excused by Official Procedures. What is becoming clear is that Sheriff Tim Swanson and his goon squad, not only have convinced themselves that this kind of brutality is sometimes acceptable, but also that they have an especially broad understanding of the sort of situation that calls for it. They are a pack of dangerous predators, and their uniforms and badges don’t make them any better than any other gang of serial rapists.

Further reading:

Just people: Over My Shoulder #35, Nikolai’s story about work at Chernobyl, from Poor People by William T. Vollman

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from chapter 3 of William T. Vollman’s new book, Poor People. It’s a sometimes compelling and sometimes tiresome book; Vollman went around cities in the U.S. and all over the rest of the world, interviewing (urban) poor people in several different countries, bringing back their stories and their answers to questions like Why are you poor? and Why are some people poor and other people rich? The compelling part are the actual stories; the tiresome part, which appears only a little in this passage but a lot more elsewhere, is Vollman’s insistent, neurotic handwringing about his own position as a rich American and his own authorial presence in the tale. (There’s nothing wrong with being upfront about these things; but there’s also nothing interesting in spending 2, 5, or 8 pages musing about your trouble in writing about poor people’s stories, which you could have spent actually letting them talk about their own stories.) Anyway, this passage comes from Vollman’s visit to Russia in 2005, when he met an eighty year old woman in front of a church, who was begging to help support herself and a family of four — her daughter Nina, her son-in-law Nikolai, and two grown grandchildren, Marina and Elena.

Nina, who had been the family’s agent of verification twice in my case (first she telephoned the interpreter to inquire about our motives and resources, and then when I had invited myself into their home she had been the one who emerged from the doorway graffiti’d KISS MY ASS to inspect me), who calmed her husband whenever he got overly worked up against the government, and who seemed to be closest to the two daughters, had originally seemed to me, even taking into consideration Oksana, who in spite of being the breadwinner was after all eighty-one years old and who so frequently wept, the most capable physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nina was a handsome, careful woman who was aging well.

I had no idea that things would turn out this badly, she said. They promised us an apartment in Petersburg. We had no idea; we were actually lied to. We were told that my husband was sent there for construction, not to clean up. We heard about it on the radio, but they told him that he would be at a safe distance from the contamination. He was away for three months. He wrote letters. He was forbidden to let us know that anything was wrong. So I took him at face value; I thought that my husband would never deceive me. His health problems began immediately. He could no longer complete an eight-hour workday, so they proposed to fire him.

And what did you do?

I sat with the children a lot and also taught grade school.

When did you know that something was wrong? I asked.

I knew exactly when they measured me, the man replied. My exposure was nine point four.

And what did you know before they sent you to Chernobyl?

I didn’t know, he said. On my official military ticket they put down that I would only build houses, nothing else.

I had always thought that the USSR was fair to the workers, I said.

That is absolutely not true, he insisted, raising his voice. Fairness to workers is only what they scream about in the newspapers. I have written a letter to Putin. They reply told me to contact the regional authorities who have already ignored me.

The man had lost some of his hair. He was very lanky in his old blue suit, and sported a strangely pale and bony face.

He showed us his card which bore the date 1986, an incorrect year, which meant that he couldn’t prove that he had been at Chernobyl and therefore remained ineligible for compensation. (Here something must have been lost in translation or else Nikolai Sokolov was confused, for the date of explosion was in fact April 1986. Perhaps his part of the cleanup took place in 1987, for he later said: From ’88 to ’94 we lived in Volgograd trying to get housing.)

Have you stayed in touch with the other workers?

No, he said.

His wife thought the date to be merely an error. But he was sure that the government wanted all personnel in the cleanup crews to die.

I think that Moscow is responsible, he said. The whole point was to change the situation so that no one is responsible for what they have done to the people.

How are you today?

Unwell, he replied.

His wife said: When he was in the hospital, he got treatment. Then, when he had no more housing, that meant no more treatment…

I produced more radiation than the X-ray machine used to measure my lungs! he cried in proud horror. It was a four and I was a ten, so the X-ray was unsuccessful.

Was your presence dangerous to your family?

The lady who works the machine has to wear a lead apron against level four and I am a level ten, so absolutely. The situation was caused intentionally…

How was your life before Chernobyl?

He stood there folding his arms, thought, then said: My life was stable and very simple. I put in ten hours at the factory. Now I get the shakes and my joints ache. I am a house builder. I build from the bottom up. That is how I was trained, but I branched out into different types of work. Work is work everywhere. I started branching out into factory work and office work but then I started being discriminated against. I wasn’t making the same rate as others–

As I said, there were no more chairs in the Sokolovs’ flat, so he stood. I, the guest, observer and rich man, sat. By now he’d begun to exert a weird effect upon me with his lank hair and bald forehead, his heavy greying eyebrows.

When you went to Chernobyl what did it look like?

Very regulated. We would get on a particular bus, travel to an intermediate area, put on our suits, then go to the main reactor compartment. We would carry armatures and concrete, and pour the concrete. Japan sent robots inside the reactor, but the radiation was so high that those new, shiny robots became useless. They just stood there.

What did it look like inside?

The reactor was already capped with concrete when we got there. But there was a machine tunnel next to it, the mechanical chamber. What had blown out of the reactor in the explosion landed there: walls, pencils, whatever. In the beginning we had to run, not walk, because the radiation was so high. We were in there with shovels wearing masks. We were only there for several seconds at a time. Five seconds per day was what we worked. We would run in, shovel one load into a trench, then run out. The trench was six to eight meters deep. Once the tunnel had been cleared out we were told that it was all right to walk. When the trench had been filled, we pumped concrete over it. Downstairs where we worked, we wore fabric suits. On the roof they wore lead suits. They were better protected.

How many workers did you see?

There were several busloads of people every day, just for our shift.

Why didn’t they just fly over it in an airplane and drop sheets of lead?

Elena, sitting in her chair, brushed her pale hands together and said something bitter in Russian. Meanwhile the man grew more and more loud, leaning forward ever closer. –I’ve asked myself that many times. The reason is that they were too cheap to spend the money and chose instead to expend people.

Elena echoed bitterly: Just people.

It’s war, but people basically end up dead. Our veins are clogged, so they just tell us to drink more vodka, which makes it worse.

How many people have died?

I don’t know. I don’t listen to the radio. I’m tired of listening to fables.

If you hadn’t gone to Chernobyl, what would your life be like today?

I would continue building houses, he shrugged. I would be able to have a decent job, and enough money.

–William T. Vollman, Poor People, pp. 70–73.

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