Bathroom bill proponents defend their work as an effort to protect women and children from alleged transgender predators. Such claims are ridiculous, as multiple commentators have noted. Bathroom bill proponents fail to provide any evidence that transgender persons are more likely to commit sex crimes. Furthermore, they ignore ample evidence that transgender people experience disproportionate rates of bullying, harassment, and sexual victimization -- including in restroom settings -- due to transphobia. For example, The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that out of a national sample of over 27,000 transgender adults, 9% indicated that someone denied them access to a restroom in the past year, and 12% experienced verbal harassment while accessing a restroom. Over half of respondents admitted to avoiding using a public restroom in the past year due to fear of confrontations.
Anti-sexual violence services recognize that bathroom bills have nothing to do with protecting women and children and reject the myth of transgender restroom predators. Last year, multiple victim service organizations signed a joint letter supporting equal restroom access for the transgender community. Now, a sexual assault victim is also raising her voice against bathroom bills.
According to MyNorthwest, Kelly Herron fought off a male attacker in a public Seattle restroom this year. ABC News states that her reported attacker, Gary Steiner, has a record of multiple assaults against women and is facing attempted rape and assault charges.
Herron was disgusted when Washington's Just Want Privacy campaign campaign used her attack to promote an anti-transgender policy measure. Just Want Privacy supports I-1552, a ballot initiative that would require separate restroom facilities for males and females, as well as preventing transgender people from using facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
Herron described her shock upon seeing her assault used to promote I-1552. "I’ve been pretty even keeled throughout this recovery time," she told Dori Monson at KIRO Radio. "I haven’t really cried very much or been angry. When I opened up this link to a newsletter that went out for the bill ...the Yes on I-1552, and it’s got my bloodied face on the cover of this newsletter that's coming out, and on their Facebook page, using my violent sexual assault to promote an initiative that discriminates against transgender people. What?!"
Herron emphasized her respect for transgender people as well as her outrage at having her image used without her permission.
"I have transgender friends. I work with transgender people. They are people. They identify differently and I don’t care where they use the bathroom. When I see a transgender person in the bathroom, we talk about lip gloss ... Now my face is being used to promote discrimination. This is outrageous. One issue has nothing to do with the other."Just Want Privacy issued an apology in a March 14th Facebook post.
"Last week a Seattle woman was attacked in a bathroom at Golden Gardens by a level III sex offender.According to Washington Won't Discriminate (an initiative opposed to I-1552), Herron has since joined efforts to fundraise for its Decline to Sign I-1552 campaign. "Using Kelly’s story to promote I-1552 is pure propaganda," the group wrote on its website. "I-1552 would not have done one thing to prevent the attack on her, and it’s already illegal to enter a restroom or locker room to harm someone, period."
Because our campaign exists to help create safe spaces, we referenced her story—as we have many others before her—to highlight the need for common sense public policy to minimize danger to women and children from those who seek to harm others.
We have recently learned through several media outlets that the woman objected to our reference to her story in our communications.
Since many of the volunteers that comprise this campaign are themselves survivors of sexual assault, the last thing we want to do is make anyone feel exploited.
If our actions have inadvertently failed in this effort, we are sincerely sorry.
Our campaign would welcome the opportunity to apologize to her in person if she would like to reach out to us or provide a way for us to reach her."
I applaud Kelly Herron for speaking out against bigotry and the misuse of her story. Sex crime victims deserve respect and support, and their struggles should never be used as cheap propaganda. Society must realize that the struggle against sexual violence and the struggle for transgender rights are entwined, not mutually exclusive.