Trans Women and Rape Culture
According to the Sexual Violence in the Transgender Community Survey, one in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. Some reports even estimate this number to be as high as 66%, with the most impacted communities being transgender youth, transgender people of color, individuals living with disabilities, homeless individuals, and those involved in the sex trade.
In 2015 alone, at least 20 trans women in the United States have been murdered. This is a state of emergency.
The fact that the majority of trans individuals are dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault has an enormous impact on the community as a whole. This also indicates that most of the trans community is living in fear of possible repeat victimization. Sisterly L.O.V.E., a Philadelphia-based community organization for trans women, determine that collective trauma history as one of the main barriers that prevent trans women from building sisterhood and being in community together.
Part of the problem is that trans communities, particularly trans women, who are hypersexualized by society, are further victimized by a rape culture that tells them they are responsible for their own sexual assault. This victim-blaming that occurs creates an atmosphere of distrust in the police which leads most sexual assaults perpetrated against trans women to go unreported.
In a time when men can use things like the “trans panic defense,” which until recently were a perfectly permissible defense argument that states that men are justified in using violence if they find out that a person they’re having sex with is trans, to justify violence against trans women, it makes sense that trans women wouldn’t feel safe reporting their abuse.
While public perception around LGBTQ communities is shifting, the world remains a largely unsafe place for LGBTQ individuals, particularly for trans individuals of color. It is estimated that 68% of sexual assaults go unreported, and we can safely assume that this number is significantly higher in trans communities.
Reporting a sexual assault is often not a safe option for many communities that have been historically mistreated by police systems. It is important to become an advocate for those who are most vulnerable and support communities in creating their own ways to keep each other safe.
As women we must no longer be silent. Our silence allows our perpetrators to walk away free, never to be held accountable for what they have done.