An 8-year-old girl is traumatized after an official at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Virginia, strip-searched the child on Nov. 24, telling her that if she refused, she would not be able to visit her father, the Virginia-Pilot reports.

Diamond Peerman, girlfriend of the girl’s father, took the child with her to visit him before Thanksgiving. Allegedly a drug-sniffing dog’s attention to the pair caused officials to tell Peerman that they both needed to be strip searched.

“I told her, that means you have to take all of your clothes off or you’re not going to be able to see your dad,” Peerman told the Virginian-Pilot. “That’s when she started crying.”

The girl texted her mother immediately after the search and her distress is palpable.

The Virginia Department of Corrections searched an 8-year-old girl who was visiting her father.
Photo Credit: Virginia Pilot

“That’s outrageous,” said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. “It’s generally regarded in the criminal justice field that you do not strip search young children. … I mean most adults, certainly most adults who work in the field of child welfare would know better, that this is an act of child abuse.”

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According to the child’s mother, the girl lives with bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD, and has missed school because of the pain of the incident. She is also clear that despite her daughter’s close relationship with her father, she will not be sending her back to visit him.

“She went through something that traumatized her,” she said. “I’m not sending her back there.”

Virginia DOC Director of Communications Lisa Kinney apologized to the child and her family, saying, “It is deeply troubling and represents a breach in our protocol…we will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam halted the policy on Friday that allowed the prison to strip search the girl and ordered an investigation into the incident, the Washington Post reports.

“I am deeply disturbed by these reports — not just as Governor, but as a pediatrician and a dad,” Northam said in a statement. “I’ve directed the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to suspend this policy while the Department conducts an immediate investigation and review of their procedures.”