These are quotes from female inmates at Michigan’s Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV) who contacted the ACLU to describe their feelings of humiliation when being forced to undergo this invasive behavior.

Since December, the women report that they no longer have to sit for the search, however the most degrading procedure remains in place — the women are forced to spread their legs while standing and spread their labia while a guard peers into their vaginal cavity.

(These quotations have been lightly edited for clarity and length. Please be aware that due to the nature of these searches, these complaints often include graphic and sometimes disturbing language.)

  • “My stomach and heart drops, when it’s close to my visitor’s time to go, because I know that I have to get strip-searched in this horrible manner.”
  • “These incidents have caused me to get several vaginal bacterial infections…I was not getting these bacterial infections…until I came to WHV.”
  • “They place you in a chair and you are completely naked. I had the officer tell me “spread your pussy lips.” Then I had one tell me to put my heels on the chair and use my hands to open my lips.”
  • “Myself and 5-15 other inmates was all taken to the restroom that was only big enough for four toilet stalls and four sinks we were force to strip down naked squat cough and spread the vaginal lip area all in front of other inmates which was sexually degrading…as well as inhumane in the treatment of myself and the other inmates. We were also told if we refused we’ll be taken to seg [administrative segregation].”
  • “She told me to sit on the edge and spread my lips. I asked her how and she said with your hand so, I did and asked her like this then? She told me to open or spread my fingers because she could not see to view my lips good enough. She told me that I [had] to do better than that. I spread my fingers open and pulled my vagina open more and hoisted my legs up a little so, she could see. The procedure is dehumanizing in every way. Upon completion of the shakedown that felt close to a forced self-rape act.”
  • “I have problems talking about the way officers did my strip searches and even have had to go into mental health services to ask to be put back on medication for depression caused by the degrading, humiliating and very mentally disturbing issues I am having over these procedures…I’ve felt very depressed ever since this issue started and its caused me to not open up because of lack of trust and at times “suicidal thoughts.” Personally, I want to never receive any visits with the outside world, religious or even my ailing dying mother. I can’t ask her not to come because it would crush her to be forced into our visits being behind a glass window with mesh wire separating you from any physical contact with them.”
  • “I was strip searched and made to sit on a chair, naked, in from of the visitation officer and spread my vaginal area. There was no necessity for this search…This incident caused my trauma and affected my P.T.S.D. again. There was no probable cause or necessity requiring this invasive, offensive, strip search. The officer had a direct view of me at all times during my visit. This was degrading, humiliating, severely affected my PTSD and my mental well-being.”
  • “I suffer from PTSD from being physically, sexually, and emotionally abused in my past. Every time I get strip searched I get flashbacks, nightmares, night sweats, palpitations…inability to concentrate, racing thoughts/panic attacks, which impedes my ability to participate in my mandatory re-entry programs which will jeopardize my parole in some manner, and these racing thoughts reoccur frequently while participating in other programs.”
  • “When I went for my Parole Board Hearing. I was not able to concentrate or focus properly on the parole officer’s questions. My mind was racing and I was full of fear and panic at the anticipation of having to be put through the strip-vaginal search procedure. I began to relive this event and became very upset, almost to the point of crying. I was sweating and having breathing trouble. I was really trying to keep my composure, but all I could think about was what was going to happen after the hearing was over.”
  • “Out of fear and retaliation I did not file a grievance. Women who did file grievances were written up, sent to seg and subject to harassment.”
  • “Because I am a survivor of domestic abuse, this strip search incident has caused me extreme emotional distress and has resulted in flashbacks of the abuse that I endured in my 30-year marriage to an abusive spouse. When the officer ordered me to pose naked in a degrading and humiliating way that I viewed as sexual in nature, I was powerless to refuse and I experienced the same feelings of shame, helplessness, and vulnerability that I experienced while being victimized by my abusive husband. Now, just the thought of a visit causes me to have anxiety attacks for the strip search that I know awaits me and it dredges up those memories of past abuse that I am working so hard to forget.”
  • “In recent years when the media reported that incarcerated Arab terrorists at Guantanamo Bay were forced to strip naked and pose in a sexually explicit manner, there was public outrage about the inhumane treatment of prisoners. However, female prisoners are repeatedly being subjected to a strip search procedure that is equally humiliating and degrading, yet their cries for help in addressing this indignity have so far fallen on deaf ears and the abusive procedure continues.”
  • “I am Muslim, and the Muslim religion prohibits women from exposing themselves in the manner this facility forced me to do so.”
  • “For me, this is very similar to acts I was forced to perform as a child. Touching myself in front of someone is a very painful and private issue for me. After my first visit at Women’s Huron Valley, I asked my family not to come back until I could process this procedure emotionally I also asked my religious family not to visit again until I felt I could handle it.”
  • “The Warden was questioned about the procedure and stated “Because we as women hide things in our Purse, and we can’t have our Purse sewn up”