Tobi Hill-Meyer

When Rape Crisis Support Staff Attack

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | February 11, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
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Does that headline strike you as absurd? That's how I feel about it. talk.jpgBut nonetheless it's the one statistic that sticks with me the most after reading the recent comprehensive study on discrimination against trans people, Injustice At Every Turn.

Respondents reported unequal treatment (5%), verbal harassment/disrespect (4%), and physical assault (1%) when utilizing rape crisis centers. When being housed in or utilizing domestic violence shelters or programs, respondents reported unequal treatment (6%), verbal harassment/disrespect (4%), and physical assault (1%).

I don't want to let others off the hook. Greater rates of discrimination and assault occurred at emergency rooms, legal service clinics, retail stores, and of course the greatest offenders: police. Those seeking help by the police were assaulted at a rate of roughly 1 in 16 and more than a third of all respondents reported mistreatment at the hands of police.

What really surprised me, though, was that staff at a rape crisis clinic would physically assault a rape victim seeking services. That it happens at all I find horrifying, and with that in mind 1 out of 100 seems like an astonishingly large number. That number is the same for those accessing rape crisis centers and domestic violence programs.

Further demographic analysis was not possible due to the comparatively smaller portion of respondents this section represented. However, other areas showed people of color were assaulted at 2-3 times higher rates. Those involved in underground economies were also assaulted at 2-3 times higher rates. And we know that several clinics and programs have policies of discriminating against trans women and in some cases have legally fought to maintain the right to discriminate against trans women.

If intersectional demographic information were available, I wouldn't be surprised if trans women, people of color, and sex workers made up a strong majority of those assaulted by rape crisis clinic or domestic violence program staff. It's quite likely the rate is much higher than 1% for those of us who face the quadruple whammy of transphobia, misogyny, racism, and anti-sex worker prejudice.

All I can say is that I hope rape crisis clinics and domestic violence shelters pay attention to this.


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And those stats weren't even figuring in the Vancouver Rape Relief Society.

That there are ANY problems with abuse from staff when you're in that situation is horrific. But then, truth is a lot of people actually think trans women can't really be raped.

I am guessing it is largely the 'trans women are men' meme, and men are the enemy for ppl working in shelters.

Paige Listerud | February 11, 2011 6:43 PM

Horrifying! But then administrators of such programs must be on guard against people who would use their positions to attack an already vulnerable population.

I've only had experience working in nursing homes as an orderly and I can attest to the abuse I've seen there. These are low-paying jobs and people hired for them do not all have the intention of caring for the patients. And, unfortunately, so do find it easy to prey on the elderly--stealing from them, taking the last of their possessions if there are not family around them being watchful.

The attacks from people supposedly providing support, help and protection is simply abominable--the more powerful preying upon the weak!

There are similar horror stories about lesbians or trans men seeking help, especially in cases were there is a lesbian or trans perpetrator. These shelters only work for female victims of male abuse. If you have a different story, you threaten the whole dynamic, that is female=victim, male=perp. There have even been perpetrators working *for* the shelters, female perpetrators I mean. I think as long as society and feminism doesn't tackle assault as a *human* problem, rather than a simplified gender problem, this won't change.

Yeah, I have an abusive ex who interned at a domestic violence shelter at the time and later a friend told me about meeting a guy who was being abused by his girlfriend who was on the board of a domestic violence program. I definitely understand that such places are no guarantee of keeping out abusers. But the part of this that shocks me is that even in the cases I've known about I wouldn't expect them to be physically violent *at* their place of work. And they'd be more targeted in their violence - not just a random client who happens to be trans.