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'One Day, Leny Kissed Me': Amanda Knox Explains Lesbian Love In Prison

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Amanda Knox Opens Up About Life And Love In Prison

Thankfully, my only knowledge of prison life comes from binge-watching Orange is the New Black and the myriad of documentaries Netflix has to offer. One such documentary I found myself glued to recently was the much anticipated Netflix Original Amanda Knox

A quick recap of who Amanda Knox is.

In 2007, Amanda Knox was an American student studying abroad in Italy, where she and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele "Raf" Sollecito, were arrested, prosecuted and subsequently twice convicted — and twice acquitted — of the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher

The Italian media portrayed Knox in a harsh light before her trial which arguably helped lead to her conviction and sentencing to 26 years in prison. And while the second conviction was overturned in 2015, details of the murder are still murky, leaving some people to still believe Knox is responsible for the crime.

Knox is currently trying to shed her past and live a normal life, and as shown in the documentary, this proves difficult due to the international media attention focused on her trials.

Knox has now opened up — sharing deeply personal details of her life and relationships in prison.

The day after Valentine's Day, Amanda published a personal essay on Broadly, in which she recounts the sexual harassment she suffered while in the Italian women’s prison facility, Capanne, from 2007-2011.

She discusses in depth the deep relationships she watched other inmates form, despite her own relative isolation caused by her special status as "the famous one."

Knox explains, “I was innocent, and for a long time, I refused to integrate into a world that didn't belong to me. I earned my peace by helping inmates write their letters and translating for non-Italian speakers, but I was always quiet and withdrawn, my nose in a book or running laps of the yard.”

Knox describes how her friendship with "Leny" (name changed for privacy) began innocently and quickly turned into harassment.

“Leny didn't demand that I give her the 'real scoop' about my case, or the clothes off my back, or ask me to buy her cigarettes. At first, she didn't demand anything. So I let Leny listen to my CDs. I taught her how to play chess. When Leny got a janitorial job, she loitered outside my cell for a sip of espresso and a chat whenever she was on break. Leny didn't have anyone else, so she looked forward to our time together … Leny wanted to hold hands. 'I've changed women before,' she'd tell me ... I felt objectified and I'd get annoyed. 'You can't change me,' I'd respond. She'd think I was playing hard to get. One day, Leny kissed me.

I gritted my teeth and half-smiled, wavering between embarrassment and anger. It was bad enough that the prison institution took ownership of my body ― that I was caged and strip-searched on a regular basis and had already been sexually harassed by male guards.

As a prisoner, Leny should have understood that, but unlike me, Leny was serving a short stint, and didn't feel as acutely as I did the loss of privacy, dignity, and autonomy ... I told Leny that since she couldn't respect my boundaries, we couldn't be friends anymore. Things became tense ... I was relieved when she was finally released, although she continued to write ... I never replied."

Knox's own frustration with Leny aside, she shows tremendous compassion for and interest in inmates who formed romantic and sexual relationships while incarcerated.

She emphasizes that the slang used to describe temporarily "becoming" a lesbian in prison — "gay for the stay" — implies a short-sighted and shallow view of the actual phenomenon itself. By nature, humans crave connection. When you’re isolated and in the confines of a prison, forming bonds with others is only natural.

Amanda interviewed Dr. Pamela Regan, a social psychology professor, who explained that many inmates form what are known as resilient relationships — relationships which enable people to survive adverse life circumstances.

Dr. Regan said, “Prison also sets up what we in relationship research call a 'closed field ... Relationships in prison are to a large extent involuntary. They are forced because there's an external limit on who you have as a potential partner. You form your relationships — sexual, romantic, friend — out of the choices you have available.” However, Regan continued, "Orientation is a larger construct than attraction and activity ... Attraction and activity are part of [sexual] orientation, but they are not one and the same. Someone who identifies as heterosexual, for example, may still feel attraction toward a same-sex individual and engage in sexual or romantic activities with a same-sex individual." 

Now Knox lives in Seattle with her partner, author Christopher Robinson.

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(This means she is obviously no longer engaged to her former fiance, musician Colin Sutherland, who she was rumored to have married.)

She is making a name for herself as an author, having published the New York Times best-selling memoir, Waiting to be Heard, as well as establishing herself as a journalist for USA Today, the Seattle Times, Seattle MagazineBroadly, and the West Seattle Herald.

According to her website, Amanda Knox today has taken her history of shame and vilification and "transformed that negative energy into advocacy. She now works to spread awareness of wrongful conviction issues and to inspire people towards empathy, determination, forgiveness, and perspective."

I know I tend to forget that people who are incarcerated are exactly that — people. Human beings.

They have families, jobs, loves, pets and lives they've left behind. Not all are hardened criminals, and some are have been falsely convicted, as was Knox.

Sp personally, I'm grateful for this reminder to keep an open heart and mind and remember that all of us share a need for love and connection, despite, or maybe even because of, how harsh the world can sometimes be.

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