As you may have notice April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you didn’t know, now you know. However, majority of articles, discussions, and statistics around sexual assault focus mainly on heterosexual women. While it is true, it is an epidemic for women in our country. We tend to leave out other populations where the statistics are even more terrifying, such as the transgender community.
1 in 2 transgender individuals will experience sexual abuse or assault at some point in their lives.
This is compared to 1 in 5 women who will be sexually at some point in their lives. I don’t say this comparison to lessen the importance of how many women are sexually assault or to put one identity’s pain over another. I point it out because it is not being discussed. I, myself, do not identify as transgendered, however, I feel that as someone who is passionate about ending sexual violence I need to speak about all those who affected rather than only speaking from one identity. I put this disclaimer because I, obviously, cannot speak from lived experience about transgender sexual assault.
Sexual violence is higher in subpopulations including the transgender community as well as specifically: transgender youth and transgender people of color. One survey found that 12% of transgender youth were sexually assaulted in grades k-12 by either peers or educational staff. This same survey found that 13% of African American transgender individuals were sexually assaulted at the workplace and 22% of homeless transgender individuals were sexually assaulted in shelters.
Another layer to sexual assault in the transgender community is the possibility of it being a component of a hate crime. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs stated, “Acts of hate violence, such as harassment, stalking, vandalism, and physical and sexual assault, are often supported by more socially sanctioned expressions of transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia and are intended to send a message to LGBTQ communities…”
I know I’m throwing tons of statistics at you. I feel like this is starting to become an academic article. What I want to show in this article is the minority populations that can often be left out of the conversation, especially when talking about sexual assault. Too often sexual assault is only called a “crime against women.” Yes, overwhelmingly, it is a crime against women or women-identifying individuals. However, by constantly using this language we shut down space for those who have been sexually assault and do not identify as women. This goes for more than just the transgender community, but also gender nonconforming individuals and males who have been sexually assaulted.
Despite the statistics of 1 in 71 men being sexually assaulted, that only comes from those reported. Who knows what a more accurate number of men who are sexually assaulted because they feel shame or a loss of masculinity from being assaulted.
What I want to make clear is that sexual assault is an epidemic in this country and world. In order for that to change, we need to make sure that the language we use and the spaces we make when talking about sexual assault are inclusive and safe for all identities. No one should feel ashamed to speak out about being sexually assault and no one should feel silenced.