Ana Bautista-Najera doesn't have a clean record. But neither does the King County Jail.
On June 20, 2005, Bautista-Najera was brought into the King County Jail after being arrested for domestic violence. She had been drinking that night and, when her boyfriend tried to take away the keys of the Ford Explorer they both owned, she had punched and kicked him.
What happened next, says the tiny 32-year-old, has made the last two years of her life a living hell.
Bautista-Najera says she was brought into a jail intake room. It had a counter with jail personnel on one side, mostly male, and inmates on the other. While standing in front of the counter, she says, she was told to get naked, presumably to be put in a jail jumpsuit. But Bautista-Najera said no, demanding that she be given a private place to undress. She says the jailers repeated the demand twice. But with her third refusal, Bautista-Najera made a big mistake: She says she kicked up her foot and a flip-flop sandal she was wearing flew off, striking a guard in the nose.
Eight male guards rushed her, she says, carried her into an adjacent room and, with two holding her wrists, two her waist and two her ankles, she was stripped in seconds. "I was screaming, 'Please don't, don't, I'm sorry. I need to get naked, but I can't get naked in front of everybody,'" she says. "Whatever I was screaming, it didn't matter. They put pepper spray in my face and they pulled on my hair."
"After that," she says, "one officer put his finger in my vagina and, in that moment, I thought they were going to rape me."
She says the men put her in a jumpsuit and left the room. Sometime after that, jail staff sent her for an evaluation by a psychologist with or paid by Public Health - Seattle & King County. She says she told the psychologist the whole story, but never went back to the jail to file a formal complaint because of her terror at being raped again.
Since then, says Bautista-Najera, a self-employed housecleaner, she has experienced flashbacks of that night that have made her do odd and terrible things, like jumping out of a car one night and twice trying to kill herself by speeding so fast that she'd wreck her car. It was during a suicidal episode last December, she says, that she ran into a man in a wheelchair near Harborview Medical Center, then sped away. She fractured two of his ribs and is now awaiting trial for felony hit-and-run. But, after what happened to her two years ago, she says, she wasn't going back to the King County Jail.
In the wake of the hit-and-run, Bautista-Najera says she had to go public. "I've just been abused and I mean to do something about it," she says. But her story is not an aberration at the King County Jail.
Last year, four jail guards were charged with sexual misconduct with inmates -- something that Theryn Kigvamasud'Vashti, co-director of Seattle's Communities Against Rape and Abuse, says is more prevalent than people realize.
"This issue of police violence against women, particularly women involved in the criminal justice system and women who are brown, is not uncommon," Kigvamasud'Vashti says. "This is not a new issue."
If the incident took place as Bautista-Najera describes it, says Maj. William Hayes, public information officer for the jail's operator, the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, it would be considered serious misconduct: Only female officers are supposed to strip-search female inmates, he says, and jail personnel never perform cavity searches, only hospital staff.
There's no record that Bautista-Najera was strip-searched, says Hayes. But there's no record she wasn't, either.
Jail booking documents obtained through public disclosure include a strip-search form, which must be completed for each inmate processed into the jail, whether or not a strip search is conducted. The form includes three boxes that can be checked: one for strip searches that were automatically permitted (in cases of murder, rape or drug possession) and another for strip searches authorized by a sergeant for "reasonable suspicion" that an inmate has concealed a weapon or evidence.
Nothing in the records indicate Bautista-Najera met the criteria for a strip search. Yet the third and only other option -- a box marked "No strip search required" -- is not checked on her strip-search form.
"We don't know if there was a strip search performed," Hayes says. But, "I'm still going to push this forward" by requesting an internal investigation. "I want to know myself," he says, "if this occurred."
[Resource] If you have been groped, raped or otherwise sexually violated by police officers or staff members at the King County Jail, please call K.L. Shannon of the NAACP at (206)250-5412.