A woman who was held at Portsmouth City Jail in May 2022 is suing the Portsmouth sheriff and a deputy over an incident in which she says the deputy forced her and at least one other female detainee to expose their genitals to prove they were menstruating.

The woman, Danaesha Martin, said in the suit filed Friday, April 7 in Portsmouth Circuit Court that the deputy ordered the detainees to expose themselves as a condition of obtaining sanitary products.

“The provision of a sanitary napkin, pad, and/or tampon by a correctional officer to a female detainee/inmate is a mere ministerial function that in no way requires the exercise of discretion,” reads Martin’s suit.

According to a copy of an email obtained by the Mercury, Portsmouth City Jail Chief Deputy of Jail Operations Lt. Col. Dorothy Dildy-Clemons wrote deputies shortly after the alleged May 2 incident that “at no time are you to ask female inmates to pulled [sic] down their pants and undergarments to visually see if they are on their cycle.”

“This can become a PREA issue that can escalate into a lawsuit,” wrote Dildy-Clemons, presumably referring to the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. “This is to stop immediately, expeditiously!!!”

Dildy-Clemons noted in the same email that the jail had “plenty” of sanitary products and directed deputies to log the names of inmates receiving such products and the quantity used.

Marvin Waters, an undersheriff in the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office, said Dildy-Clemons’ email was sent in response to a rumor and not an official report.

“What the lieutenant colonel was doing was putting something out there about it to say, ‘Hey, this is something we do not do,’” he said. “There was never an official report of an incident that had occurred.”

Waters said the sheriff’s office doesn’t comment on pending litigation and plans to file a response within the next 30 days. He also said Dildy-Clemons’ description of the procedure used to provide detainees with sanitary products accurately reflects the jail’s ongoing policy.

“I really wish I could speak on it more, but once all the facts in the lawsuit come out, a lot of viewpoints on the matter will definitely change,” he said.

Martin is accusing the sheriff and the deputy, variously called “Katherine Adams,” “Catherine Adams” and “RC Adams,” among other spellings, of sexual abuse, gross negligence and wilful and wanton misconduct, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Under state code, sexual abuse is defined as “an act committed with the intent to sexually molest, arouse, or gratify any person” in four specific situations, including when “the accused forces another person to touch the complaining witness’s intimate parts or material directly covering such intimate parts.”

READ MORE HERE: This story is written and reported by our media partner The Virginia Mercury.