I never thought that I could be victimized while behind bars, but after my ordeal being sexually assaulted by a transport agent I learned different and soon found myself advocating for victimized men and women.
May 13th of 2001, I was picked up by a Colorado-based private prisoner transport company Extraditions International. The agents transporting me were Richard Almendarez, an ex Tx Dpt. of Criminal Justice guard who I found later was released for assaulting a male inmate while on the job. Daryl Hudnall was much more (illegible) -- Richard was "training" him and I could tell Daryl was doing all he could to get along with the power hungry Mexican male who stood 6'4" or 6'5", 350_ pounds. Immediately Richard began making sexual comments. Much of his comments were made when his partner slept. When we stopped for gas he'd get pretty vulgar talking about women getting gas and then (illegible) up his "Bitch ex wife" as he'd put it. Why don't you come up here and get on my lap and ride me!! Implying he wanted me to have sex with him by climbing on top. "Tell me bedtime stories and make sure they are Xrated."
I was shocked at how graphic he was getting, and bold. He didn't stop much to allow all of us on the van to use the restroom -- he didn't want to feed us either. He did it as a form of control! When we picked up Ms. Flores Brown at LA County jail he started in on she and I both and it was like I'd heard his lines before -- as he was saying the same to her as he did to me. By the time we were in the California desert heading toward Vegas, his words got violent. "I should just take you both out in the desert, rape and shoot you!" He'd call us "sluts" and "whores" and this whole time we were all in leg shackles, belly chains and boxed cuffs and never being able to rest and unshackle the whole trip. The closer we got to Busbee Arizona, the more Richard was telling us he was going to take us into Mexico over an international border and have sex with us in a motel and there was nothing the U.S. could do -- it was out of their jurisdiction. I remember how suddenly she and I both were afraid he was crazy enough to force us to have sex and possibly take us over the border.
He'd heard us whispering. We both decided to have (illegible) Brown report his behavior. He suddenly becomes paranoid thinking we were actually federal agents planted on the van. Once we reached Cochise county -- Busbee Arizona, she reported Richard we'd already left and ended up being turned around to pick up a federal prisoner Mr. Tirzo-Rojo in Bisbee going to Oregon. Tirzo-Rojo and Richard didn’t hit it off because Tirzo-Rojo stood up to Richard’s verbal and emotional and mental abuse. Richard told him he’d yank him out of the van and beat him while chained and he started reading Tirzo-Rojo’s file saying “Boy, you’re in trouble for assault – who will they believe, you or me?”
I’d been on the van three and a half days and was exhausted. Richard would deliberately pull into roadside parks and laugh pulling away, making us all think we were going to get a restroom break. My kidneys had already shut down. I was dehydrated. He told us we couldn’t drink much because he wasn’t stopping. I feel asleep exhausted and awoke hearing him say restroom break. I noticed the clock on the radio saying 5 am. It was dark outside. Darryl and Richard pulled up in front improperly and they took the men to the restroom and left me on the van. Richard returned. I thought everything was fine until he goes into the restroom with me and unshackles my belly chains leaving my right cuff on and my left off and the leg shackles remaining. He hovers over me, I’m 5 ft and he’s 6’5” and much bigger than I am – very intimidating. He tells me I’m going to have sex with him – then suddenly he says I’m going to give him oral sex. I call him a pig, but soon am forced onto the cold clammy restroom floor after he’s forced me to remove my bra and shirt, leaving it to hang off my right arm.
I was wearing a long black skirt and cowboy boots. I was told to place my feet on the bathroom door so nobody could come in. He stood over me straddling my body leaning against the door as he also stepped on my right hand. I continued to call him a pig. His fingers went for the Velcro on his gunbelt. The gun was a small pistol, black. I realized he was serious. He told me “if you cry out I’ll shoot you and say you tried to escape.” “Who are they going to believe, me or you!” His fingers went bumbling for his zipper. It appeared it was hard to find as his belly was large and hung over his black uniform pants. I closed my eyes. Thoughts of my childhood raced before my eyes of my alcoholic stepfather molesting me as a child, cutting my jumprope in half after dragging me out of the shower by my long brown chestnut hair and tying me to the bed and molesting me.
I opened my eyes as he ejaculated on my left breast. I went numb. I was also full of rage. “Clean yourself up.” He brought tissue but I got up and frantically began scrubbing his scent off of me. So hard I was rubbing my breast raw. He decided that we would stay at the roadside park south of Pueblo Colorado for about 1 ½ hours. His boss didn’t want them on before 8 a.m. We stayed at the roadside park and headed on I25 to Pueblo and stopped at McDonalds.
He acted as if nothing happened. Darryl questioned me as to why I was so quiet. I told the men he assaulted me. Once at the main office of Extradition International I reported him and suddenly was being told whatever I said and reported would be told to Richard, and unfortunately I still had to ride with him.
I figured for my safety I’d tell as much as I could but wouldn’t report the sexual assault until I got to Steamboat Springs Colorado for fear they’d try to cover it up and that Richard would do something to me for reporting the sexual assault. The Director Mr. Perolt did as he said. I had Richard get back on the van and head to Steamboat – mad and angry, telling Darryl he should blow my head off and rape me but we suddenly developed problems with the van and we returned. All but me were put on another van – I stayed in the burning hot van until Perolt came and asked about Richard’s behavior. Darryl came to the van driver’s side and tells Perolt “Richard needs to be stopped – I’ll call you when I get to TX! He’s out of line!” I eventually was put on another van and a male agent alone transported me. I got to steamboat about 9:00 – 9:30 p.m. on the 16th and I was in shock. All I wanted to do was shower.
By midnight I was taken into the female cell and there were 2 women in there. It resembled a hostel rather than jail cell. Carpet, wooden bunk beds. Jennifer Stark was concerned about me – I kept taking a shower – I finally told her what had happened. She saw the blood blisters on my belly, how dehydrated I was, my lips cracked and swollen, and started forcing me to drink water. I was swollen – I couldn’t use the restroom until late the next day. She told me I had to report them, to not be afraid. I cried and cried, and suddenly a Domestic Violence organization’s head, Diane Moore, came to see me. She then sent Leah Tranor to see me and I was diagnosed with chronic delayed post-traumatic stress –amnesia and anxiety. Detectives came to see me. I had to repeat my story over and over and relive the assault. I fought myself to keep going, thank God for Jennifer and the nurse Sue Willis at (illegible) County Jail. She told me (edited). I drew strength from her and Jennifer. I wrote hundreds of letters and finally my cry was heard by Mark Silverstein and Simon Mole with Denver ACLU. They turned my case over to the ACLU Prison Project’s attorneys Craig Courie and David Fahlte and Mark Silverstein also was included to handle the lawsuit that was filed by my 3 attorneys April 2002.
It hit all the papers. Women were coming up to me telling me how they were glad I was standing up against my predator. Some were angry I would file on someone and try to ruin his life, but those few were victims themselves and were doing as any victimized person would do = condone his behavior and try to save him. But all in all I began to draw more strength from women in prison with me. I started telling my story – I wrote while in Roalt County for “The Local” and told my story. I found many felt my pain. They begged me to fight for not only myself but others. Westward.com’s Alan Prendergast did a story on me, “Road Hazard,” and I got letters from people in Colorado more positive than negative.
I began writing to anyone who would hear me. Stop Prisoner Rape included me in a story about 7Up and boycotting a TV commercial for their poking fun at prisoner rape and suddenly SPR wanted to nominate me to their Board of Advisors by Director Ms. Stemple. I ended up being sent to Pueblo Minimum Center in Pubelo. Women recognized my name being the woman who was assaulted by the extradition agent. I became PMC’s inmate rep sitting in on disciplinary hearings to ensure offenders due process rights were not violated. I wrote CURE – Senators and pushed also to be heard on the introduction by Senators Kennedy and Jeff Sessions, numerous representatives and ex-Watergate asst. to Pres. Nixon Chuck Colson of the stop prisoner rape campaign.
We have come to a settlement agreement with the company, and I intend to use some of the fends to create United We Stand, a nonprofit that has a legal defense team to stop the victimization of men and women, and I plan also to work closely with SPR to educate the public about victimization and sexual assault. My life is not the same. I value it more today and I’ve become a fighter for those incarcerated. Why, because if I’d not have gone through what I have, I’d not have become an activist. Anyone can be assaulted. I was a concert promoter. I’m educated. Sexual assault has nothing to do with sex – it deals with power and control. It doesn’t play favorites as to education or color, and the only way to stop it is by breaking the silence and speaking up.
If I can touch but one life with my story it will have been well worth it. If you have been victimized, I’m here. Just a letter away. I want to hear your story and would hope all of our stories can be put together in creating a book to show there is hope after we’ve been abused so we may be able to give that hope to others. You can write to me at the following (address). I welcome all letters.
Robin Darbyshire, 112556, PMC Box 3, Pueblo Colorado, 81002.
If you would like to help me get United we Stand off the ground, please don’t hesitate. Write. This will help not only myself, it will help those of you who’ve been assaulted. Reaching out to those who have given up is the goal.
Drawing strength from each other! In solidarity,