Two women who were incarcerated at Rikers Island’s Rose M. Singer Center, the complex’s women’s jail, have filed a horrifying class action suit against the City of New York alleging that they were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by a corrections officer named Benny Santiago. The lawsuit, according to Capital New York, was filed in Manhattan federal court by the Legal Aid Society and the law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton on Tuesday and alleges “the pervasive culture of rape and other sexual abuse at R.M.S.C. is common knowledge within and without the facility.”
The women making the complaint have asked the court for anonymity, as one of them is still incarcerated at Rikers and fears reprisals from the still-on-duty Officer Santiago, who they say abused and threatened them if they resisted his advances or reported the abuse.
According to the suit, Jane Doe 1 has “limited intellectual capacity” and was taken advantage of by Santiago during her first incarceration in 2006 and again in 2011. Jane Doe 2 was repeatedly sexually assaulted in 2013, and says that Santiago encouraged other inmates and guards to harass her when he suspected that she had reported him.
The suit claims that the Department of Corrections did nothing when informed of Officer Santiago’s misdeeds, and that he is one of at least 7 current officers who have sexually abused incarcerated women.
This is another accusation in a seemingly endless stream of depressing reports of abuse at Rikers Island in recent years.
(Photo: Tim Rodenberg)