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Reporter Who Says She Was Told Skirt Was Too Short to Witness Execution: 'My Story Reveals a Larger Issue'

·4-min read
Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara
Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara

Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara/Instagram Ivana Hrynkiw

Alabama reporter Ivana Hrynkiw is speaking out after claiming she was told her skirt was too short to witness an execution she was covering last month.

Hrynkiw, 29, tells PEOPLE she has been "amazed at the response I have received since sharing my story" on Twitter in the early morning hours of July 28.

"So many people have reached out with their support, but also so many women in Alabama and beyond have told me similar stories of what they have faced," she explains. "My story reveals a larger issue that so many women were not surprised by this."

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In late July, Hrynkiw released a statement about the incident on Twitter, claiming a Department of Corrections representative told her "publicly" that she was not allowed to view the execution of convicted murderer Joe Nathan James Jr. at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore because her skirt "was too short."

At the time, the reporter and managing producer for AL.com told PEOPLE she had previously worn the same skirt to executions and other professional events and believed it was "more than appropriate" attire.

Hrynkiw was also shocked because neither she nor her colleagues "have ever had a prison official cite any dress codes for reporters or for executions" prior to an execution, she says. When reporters requested a copy of the dress code for reference, they were directed to a digital version, Hrynkiw claims.

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The code states that "all dresses, skirts, and pants shall extend below the knee" and that "Splits/Slits must be knee length or lower" — both of which are followed by the phrase "females only" in parentheses, according to the reporter.

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A prison spokesperson "admitted that reporters may not have known about the policy, and said it had not been enforced before," she adds.

The William C. Holman Correctional Facility did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Hrynkiw hopes that speaking out makes both women and men "feel empowered to share their personal stories" that might be similar to hers.

"While I never wanted this to happen, I'm thankful it happened to someone like me who has a platform and can call attention to something that happens to women more than we would like to admit," she tells PEOPLE.

RELATED: West Virginia TV Reporter Struck by a Car in the Middle of Broadcast — and Continues Reporting!

Hrynkiw Wants Focus Back on Faith Hall's Death and Joe Nathan James Jr.'s Execution

However, Hrynkiw says she is "saddened" that the final hours of James' life were spent talking about her. "His story, the victim Faith Hall's family's story… that was the point," she says. "Not me."

In 1996, James was convicted of capital murder in the death of 26-year-old Faith Hall — a mother of two who briefly dated James before he became obsessed with her, prosecutors said.

James' execution was carried out despite objections from Hall's two daughters and uncle, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

"I know it may sound crazy. Like, you really want this man to live? But ... I just feel like we can't play God," Hall's daughter Terryln previously told the Associated Press. "We can't take a life. And it's not going to bring my mom back."

Prison officials "cannot confirm" if James was fully conscious moments prior to receiving the lethal injection, the Advertiser reported. The questions surrounding James' execution further fueled a debate about the execution method.

James' younger sister, Yvette Craig, called for an investigation into her brother's execution in a statement to the outlet.

"I would like to start by saying that there is no excuse for what my brother did," Craig wrote, per the Advertiser. "He took the life of a mother, and he deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison to think about what he did and why it was the wrong decision to make."