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Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Pregnant Woman Calls Jail Rape a Policy

MILWAUKEE (CN) - A Milwaukee County jail guard raped a pregnant detainee, sexually assaulting her three times "within days of giving birth" and twice more after she had her baby while shackled, she claims in Federal Court.

Officer Xavier D. Thicklen's "abuse of his authority went wholly unchecked" by co-defendant Sheriff David A. Clarke, even though at least one of the assaults was caught on camera, Jane Doe claims in the lawsuit.

Thicklen is charged with five counts of second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff, according to Milwaukee media. He could be sent to prison for 40 years on each county.

Doe, 22, claims she was in the early stages of her first pregnancy when Thicklen raped and sexually assaulted her in the jail. Days after she gave birth, in shackles, Thicklen sexually assaulted her two more times, Doe says in the 15-page complaint.

She was housed in the general population of the jail and Thicklen was assigned to be her medical clinic officer, in charge of transporting her to and from her doctor's appointments, she claims. On the way to her first appointment, she was isolated from two other inmates who were also being taken to the clinic. She says Thicklen put her in a separate cell and told her "he could make her stay at the jail better." Thicklen then began touching her genitals and put his fingers inside her vagina without her consent, Doe says. During all his assaults, Thicklen was "cloaked in his uniform and carrying his jail-issued weapon," according to the lawsuit.

The second time she was assaulted, Doe says, she was called into the sixth floor control area for an "attorney visit." Thicklen was waiting for her there, she says, with the intent of having sex.

"Thicklen then committed anal rape of plaintiff without her consent," according to the lawsuit. "Concerned about contracting a disease, plaintiff asked Thicklen to at least use a condom, but Thicklen did not."

Doe claims that Thicklen threatened to put her into maximum security if she told anyone. The threat scared her because the maximum security area was "not suitable" for a pregnant woman, she says.

"Detainees in 'max' remain isolated in their room for approximately 23 hours a day, with little opportunity to walk around. ... (T)hey are served only 'nutriloaf,' an inedible mixture of various meats and other items that is widely understood to be used by penal institutions as a form of punishment. Plaintiff grew concerned that her pregnancy would be negatively impacted by being sent to max. "

"Thicklen also threatened plaintiff by stating that no one would believe her, and that the fellow guards were his friends, implying that they would protect him and not her.

Plaintiff was terrified of Thicklen's threats and believed that she would be punished "by reporting the assaults. She believed that the guards would not help her but would protect him instead."

The came the anal rape without a condom, she says

"The third assault came when she was called to the attorney visiting area, where Thicklen again was waiting for her to have sex, Doe says. Plaintiff did not consent. In addition, plaintiff was unwell and had been experiencing labor-related pains.

"Thicklen did not relent. He bent her over a chair and sexually assaulted her.

"After the rape, plaintiff began bleeding in a manner indicative of the onset of labor.

"Thicklen committed this act while on-duty, cloaked in his uniform and carrying his jail-issued weapon."

Thicklen's sexual assaults and sodomy were unrelenting, Doe says in the complaint.

"The fourth sexual assault occurred within days of the birth of plaintiff's child. Plaintiff was recovering in the infirmary, where Thicklen was assigned to work that day.

"Thicklen approached plaintiff and brought her a warm compress. He then asked her whether she was ready to have sex. Plaintiff refused.

"Thicklen then pulled out his penis and forced plaintiff to perform oral sex, while she was on her hospital bed."

Finally, "Plaintiff's fifth and final sexual assault occurred when Thicklen again arranged for her to be taken from her pod to the clinic for a medical appointment. Thicken told her he did not have time to deal with her resistance. He sexually assaulted her and then returned her to her cell," according to the complaint.

Doe says the no one helped her at any time, despite at least one of the assaults being caught on surveillance cameras. She claims that Thicklen's "abuse of his authority went wholly unchecked by the Sheriff, or any of the supervisors to which the Sheriff delegated his supervisory responsibilities."

She adds: "Further evidencing the failure to meaningfully supervise and discipline guards such as defendant Thicklen is the fact that his supervisor (at all relevant times) was recently suspended following accusations that - while on duty - she would perform sexual lap dances for other officers." (Parentheses in complaint.)

Doe claims: "Milwaukee County Jail directly encourages, and is thereby the moving force behind, the very type of misconduct at issue here - inappropriate sexual contact by correctional officers. As a matter of both policy and practice, the Milwaukee County Jail facilitates the very type of misconduct at issue here by failing to adequately punish and discipline prior instances of similar misconduct, thereby leading Milwaukee jail officers to believe their actions will never be scrutinized and, in that way, directly encouraging future abuses."

She calls the "widespread practice so prevalent as to comprise municipal policy" and says that municipal policymakers "condone and facilitate by their inaction, a 'code of silence.'"

She also objects to being shackled during labor and delivery of her baby. She claims that "the County of Milwaukee and Sheriff Clarke have implemented, encouraged, and/or condoned an unconstitutional policy of shackling women during labor, delivery, and/or recovery from delivery."

She seeks damages and punitive damages is suing for 14th Amendment violations, failure to intervene and indemnification.

She is represented by Robin Shellow of Milwaukee and Arthur Loevy of the Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy.

Thicklen's next court appearance is set for March 4.

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