A sexual assault survivor and long-time advocate for other victims of sexual assault has explained exactly why anti-LGBT “bathroom bills” that cast transgender people as sexual predators do nothing to help victims of sexual assault. In fact, she argues that those opposing LGBT equality with “bathroom bills” are not working to strengthen programs addressing sexual assault, but rather to “exploit” survivors to further their agenda.
Loree Cook-Daniels is a survivor of sexual assault and a professional advocate for other sexual assault survivors to help them heal through the Milwaukee based organization Forge. In response to North Carolina's unprecedented new anti-LGBT law that bans transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, Cook-Daniels wrote a piece debunking the anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” myth peddled by the law's supporters. Proponents of the law have parroted the talking point spread by anti-LGBT activists that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people will allow men to pretend to be transgender to sneak into bathrooms and commit sexual assault.
Although this so-called “bathroom predator” myth has been widely debunked by experts -- including law enforcement officials and victims' rights advocates in localities with similar laws on the books -- the narrative has largely dominated local North Carolina media coverage unchecked. Cook-Daniels adds her voice to the list of experts dismantling the "bathroom predator" myth, further arguing that those pushing for “bathroom bills” are simply “exploiting” victims of sexual assault. She also notes that the organizations backing bathroom bills do not advocate for other initiatives to help survivors of sexual assault (emphasis added):
They seem like unlikely leaders in the dozen-plus states where proposed legislation would effectively keep transgender people out of public restrooms, but there they are: sexual assault survivors.
Each survivor shows long-term signs of trauma. ...
Even more tragically, decades after they were first harmed, these survivors are again being exploited. Those who are promoting their stories, including the Heritage Foundation, are claiming they want to “protect” them. Actually, however, like these women's original abusers, these “helpers” are acting only in their own interests. In this case, their interest is ensuring transgender people are not guaranteed rights to privacy and safety.
This is far from the first time people have used the specter of sexual assault as a political tool. Politicians have demonized many American minorities over the centuries as rapists and/or child molesters, using those charges to whip up opposition to granting those groups respect, dignity, and rights. Those so targeted have included (but by no means are limited to!) African-Americans, young Japanese men, Jewish Americans, gay men, and, most recently, Mexican immigrants.
I, too, am a sexual assault survivor. I also work with sexual assault survivors professionally, both helping them heal and training others how to help them, as well. So I am in a position to know who is really helping us make progress, and who is just using us.
Part of the evidence these survivors are being used comes from the jurisdictions that have already protected transgender individuals' rights to pee and change clothes in peace: all of them report that there has been no increase in sexual assaults in bathrooms or locker rooms (see, for example, " 15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth").
More importantly, perhaps, is the list of what the Heritage Foundation and other politicians who are using sexual assault survivors are NOT doing:
- They are not leading the effort to support the growth and funding of programs working on the prevention of sexual assault, such as the Violence Against Women Act. The Heritage Foundation in fact opposed the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act).
- They are not acknowledging that both men and women can be survivors, and that both men and women can be perpetrators. Instead, they are picking out just the one type of sexual assault that meets their needs and enforcing silence about all the others. How would they protect boys who shower or toilet with men? Is anyone talking about the needs of women and men whose female relative or babysitter molested them?
- They are not visibly demanding follow-up of the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits that are gathering dust in evidence rooms nationwide.
- They are not conducting public education campaigns to tell people the facts of who abusers are and how they behave, so that people can start identifying and addressing actual dangerous situations.
- They are not proposing legislation to change statutes of limitations so that adults can prosecute the people who molested them as children, or backing other reforms that might change the fact that 98 percent of rapists never serve a day in jail.
- They are not funding or advertising quality trauma-treatment programs that can help survivors re-integrate into the world without carrying a debilitating fear of half of its inhabitants.
As a society, we have already chosen: rather than using public policy to “protect” one group from another that they fear is dangerous, we have affirmed civil rights and worked instead to change stereotypes. White people who fear Blacks no longer have a right to a whites-only bathroom or water foundation. An employer can no longer fire a pregnant single mother because one of her co-workers finds her “immoral.” A restaurant owner can no longer refuse to serve a Muslim patron because some other diner believes all Muslims are terrorists. It is time we now protect transgender people from those who mistakenly fear they are -- or can be used by -- child molesters and rapists.