An African American woman in Texas says an officer sexually assaulted her when the officer searched her vagina for marijuana outside a Texaco gas station after a traffic stop last month.
21-year-old Charnesia Corley was pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign on June 21st, whereupon the Harris County deputy said he smelled marijuana. Corley was handcuffed and put in the back of the sherrif’s car while her car was searched for almost an hour. No marijuana was found.
The deputy then returned to his car and called a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. Despite Corley’s protests and lack of consent to a cavity search, Corley was forced to the pavement of the gas station parking lot, stripped, and searched.
“I bend over and she proceeds to try to force her hand inside of me. I tell her, ‘Ma’am, No. You cannot do this,” Corely told local TV report station KTRK.
“It’s undeniable that the search is unconstitutional,” said Sam Cammack, Corley’s attorney.
Corely is charged with two misdemeanors, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana, as investigators claim they found .02 ounces of marijuana on her. The Harris County Sherriff’s Department insists that Corely consented to the cavity search, leaving many to wonder why she is then being charged with resisting arrest.
Corely is calling the incident sexual assault. The current federal definition of rape is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without consent of the victim.”
A spokesman for the Harris County Sherriff’s’ Department said that “the deputies did everything as they should.” As the Washington Post put it:
“And so there you have it. Holding a woman down and forcibly penetrating her vagina to search for pot is official policy in Harris County.”
Corely has filed a complaint with the Harris County Sherriff’s’ Office Internal Affairs Division. The County Sherriff’s Office is refusing comment until the completion of the internal affairs investigation.
“Once again, it seems that a Black female body has been violated by Texas law enforcement for no reason,” Jamilah Lemiuex wrote for Ebony Magazine.
Police violence against women of color, specifically Black women, often manifests as sexual violence, although sexual assault by police officers is not often considered in public dialogue about police violence. The African American Policy Forum, founded by UCLA Professor of Law Kimberlé Crenshaw and leading theorist in race and racism, issued a report in May of this year titled “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women,” in which gender-specific issues of police brutality are analyzed. In this report, Crenshaw and other authors hope to expand the analysis of police violence to include gender-specific issues faced by Black women.
Currently, there is a great paucity of data surrounding gender-specific of police brutality against Black women. There is no concise collection of sexual or other forms of gender-based violence committed by police officers in this country. But as the AAPF report says, “the erasure of Black women is not purely a matter of missing facts.” National media attention for #BlackLivesMatter has largely been on the shooting deaths of African American men at the hands of white police officers, and this media attention shapes how researchers and advocates tend to shape national dialogue.
Media Resources: ABC13 8/5/15; AAPF Report May 15; Ebony Magazine 8/12/15;