Female Inmate Sexually Harassed By Fully-Intact Male Inmate Speaks Out From Behind Bars

Produced by: Kelsey Bolar & Andrea Mew

Written by: Andrea Mew

Disclaimer: This profile includes explicit language that may be considered profane to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

In January 2023, a fully intact male inmate who identifies as transgender allegedly sexually harassed female inmate Dana Gray on two separate occasions. Gray spoke exclusively with Independent Women’s Forum in a series of phone calls from behind bars, sharing that these incidents occurred after California passed a gender self-identification law, which opened the door for male predators who identify as transgender or non-binary to gain access to women’s prisons. 

Many women behind bars appear to have reservations about sharing the negative implications of this policy out of fear for their safety, their ability to get released, and their ability to rehabilitate. For some time, Gray felt this way too, but ultimately decided that the cause was greater than her fears—as a 66-year-old convicted serial killer, Gray is never getting out of prison.

“I’m too old to hold back,” she said. “I’m not holding back anymore.” Gray has nothing to lose, but everything to gain for the fellow women she’s housed with inside Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) who—no matter their crime—similarly don’t deserve to be subjected to abuse.

However, this wasn’t the first time that Gray had been housed with a man while incarcerated, she said. In 1994, after being sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for murder, attempted murder, and robbery, Gray was incarcerated at CCWF. 

In 2008, Gray said she had a male roommate who had undergone “gender-affirming” surgery. This man was “totally non-invasive, polite,” she said, adding, he “just smelled like a dude,” but was otherwise “okay.”

The transgender-identifying individuals who have been coming in after SB 132 took effect Jan. 1, 2021, are different, according to Gray. “Most of them don’t wear makeup,” she said. “They are straight men, and they’re men in women’s clothing, so to say.”

Because she had experience living with a male inmate identifying as a transgender woman, when SB 132 was passed, Gray said she thought she’d help the new transfers try to integrate. She recalled meeting one man and thinking at the time he was “real friendly” to her. But, once he moved into her unit (a subdivision of housing at CCWF shared by 276 inmates on average), Gray said things “started to be a little bit off.”

He went on a hunger strike, she said, and then ended up moving into her room the day that a female inmate was supposed to move in. The blossoming friendship they previously shared started to sour; she said he would verbally abuse her, put her down, and tell her she would die in prison. She said he would also nitpick her behavior and even told her to quit taking college classes.

Until Gray communicated these issues with a trusted officer, she said she didn’t realize she was in an abusive relationship. She told the officer, “I feel ashamed that I tried to help this person,” but according to Gray, all the officer could do was offer to talk through her problems.

The following night, however, Gray said the male roommate exposed his penis to her in what she perceived as “a show of male dominance.” 

“He came into my bed area and pulled his pants down, and shoved his d*ck in my face,” she said. “I looked at it, and it’s like, ‘Why are you doing this?’” Gray recalled thinking at the time.

Shocked and disgusted, Gray said she told him to get out of her bed area and, eventually, he left her alone. She didn’t report the incident because she didn’t want to get sent to administrative segregation while it was being investigated. But while she was asleep the following night, Gray said the man accosted her again.

“My bunk faces the wall, so I’m curled up against this wall, and I’m 5’1″,  he’s like 6’1″, almost 6’2″, and [he] put that big man hand on my back, on my shoulder blade, and while he woke me up, I thought it was like the house was on fire, or a raid, and I woke up really startled,” she recalled.

Gray said her roommate was “horrified, and very scared,” so Gray got out of bed and told him: “Stay the F out of my area. Don’t ever come to my area. Don’t ever touch me.” 

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Gray said. “But I didn’t curl up and cry. You have to stand up and really show you’re not afraid, because the minute you show fear, it’s over.”

Gray said after these incidents, she spoke with her trusted officer once more, then was sent to the medical clinic to get checked out. After that, she said prison staff moved the male inmate to another yard. 

Gray’s story is not an isolated incident within California’s prison system, which now allows for gender self-identification. IWF has detailed multiple reports of women emotionally or physically abused by the male criminals allowed to transfer into their facilities. Some women have even been sexually abused.

“These girls that are here are broken,” Gray said. “They need training. Many are uneducated. They need schooling, they need recovery groups, and this is a giant distraction.” 

“It makes us look stupid,” she added.

Gray also raised concerns about the sexualized culture that results from having male inmates housed with female inmates, and pointed out how the effects are twofold: for men, they’re given access to act out on sexual desires, and for women, some naively welcome the opportunity.

“Young girls, they’re all over them because they want to have sex. They think it’s great. They don’t know any better,” she said. 

But sex in prison is forbidden, in part because when a person becomes a ward of the state, they lose their right to consent. Further, parenthood in prison carries troubling complexities.

“From reproductive health care to protection against sexual victimization during incarceration and more, pregnancy and birth are frequently handled in ways considered unacceptable in any other circumstance,” wrote Jennifer G. Clarke, MD, MPH, and Rachel E. Simon in the AMA Journal of Ethics

Gender self-identification laws only add to these shortcomings, which Gray said give male inmates “more rights” than female inmates.

“It degrades women so bad,” she said. “I feel like, ‘Oh, just put the men in there that are troubled, because those women are stupid.’ They don’t care. ‘Just throw some condoms in there, and let them have sex. They’re just women.’ That’s how I feel.”

From her perspective, Gray said that groups who support these types of laws and the politicians who allowed the bill to pass “don’t care” about women in prison. Rather, the men are “protected” and can get away with behavior like the sexual harassment she faced.

“It’s disgusting, and I have to be polite and deal with it for my own safety, and so that I have a less stressful day, but I don’t like it,” Gray said. “I don’t want any of them here. I want them to go away.”

Gray told IWF that retaliation is now a genuine concern for her, as she had previously attempted to speak to the media about this situation but a prison staffer had insinuated that they could file a PREA investigation and have her sent to administrative segregation. Gray expressly stated that she cannot produce evidence that this event happened, and that she is not seeking any action against CDCR nor her alleged harasser.

Currently, Gray is facing total knee replacement and was just diagnosed with the beginning of congestive heart failure. The prospect of being sent to administrative segregation for sharing her story, while not even naming the male individual or seeking disciplinary actions against him, frightened her.

“I don’t have any reason to make this up. There’s no gain in it for me,” she added. “I’m simply telling my story.”

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