CLARK COUNTY, Ind. — Startling allegations are coming out of the Clark County Jail in Jeffersonville.
Nearly two dozen women are suing the sheriff's department, an ex-jail guard and unnamed jail staff.
They say the ex-corrections officer gave male inmates keys to access the female side of the jail, which allegedly led to attacks, threats and rapes behind bars.
The 20 women listed as plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit call it a night of terror at the Clark County Jail. They claim the alleged attack by male prisoners went uninterrupted for hours.
"Women were harassed, sexually assaulted, threatened and completely terrified," said Bart Betteau, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs.
"When I met with each and every one of these women, and they broke down repeatedly, you get the impression, the understanding of what these women went through," Betteau said.
According to the complaint filed last week, the incident last Oct. 24 started with a bribe behind bars from David Lowe, a now-former corrections officer, who's facing separate felony criminal charges.
The civil lawsuit says Lowe, in exchange for money, gave male inmates keys to access the female jail pods.
"Which of course allowed the male inmates at one point during the night to come in with their faces shielded by articles of clothing or towels," Betteau said.
The lawsuit claims at around 11:30 p.m., two men came in at first and threatened to kill the women if they called for help.
It says multiple men then entered the pods, grabbed and groped the female inmates and exposed their genitals to them. At least two women, the suit claims, were raped.
The alleged attacks lasted for hours.
"These females were doing everything they could to alert the jail staff. They were pounding on the door for help. They were hitting the buzzer on the inside of the pod in order to alert jail staff," Betteau said.
The lawsuit claims once officers did respond, the female inmates were punished by losing privileges.
An officer advised the females they lost their "dark" privileges and the lights stayed on in the female pods for the next three days.
The suit says over the next several days, the women were put on lockdown, were taken to cells for questioning and had personal items like razors, pillows and blankets removed.
Attorneys say they're now working to get video footage of the alleged incident that October night.
But Betteau said the mere presence of cameras inside and the alleged lack of staff intervention is why the women are suing not only David Lowe, but also the sheriff and "unknown" jailers.
"This was a complete and utter breakdown of the one thing that you should be relying, that you should be able to rely upon jails to provide and that's security. The response should be immediate. There are cameras in those pods specifically for that reason," Betteau said. "And when this happens, in the night, men crashing through the door and you have zero control from that moment on, maybe you can start to understand the damages these women went through."
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages right now and demands a jury trial.
13 Investigates did reach out to the Clark County Sheriff's Department for response. They told 13News they haven't received official notification of the allegations and don't comment on pending litigation. They did say David Lowe was investigated and arrested within a few hours of the incident in October. He's facing a level 5 and level 6 felony, along with an A misdemeanor. His criminal case is set to go to trial in September.