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Serving Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault
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June 2014
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The Numbers

Statistics documenting transgender people's experience of sexual violence indicate shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault. One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.1 Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent, often coupled with physical assaults or abuse.2 This indicates that the majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization.

This section covers statistics related to the following topics:


Victims

Sexual violence has been found to be even higher in some subpopulations within the transgender community, including transgender youth, transgender people of color, individuals living with disabilities, homeless individuals, and those who are involved in the sex trade. For example, the 2011 Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 12 percent of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K–12 settings by peers or educational staff; 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace; and 22 percent of homeless transgender individuals were assaulted while staying in shelters.3

Perpetrators

Sexual assaults can be perpetrated by any individual; however, it is particularly startling when professionals who are in "helping" roles abuse their power and sexually assault individuals they are supposed to be serving. Fifteen percent of transgender individuals report being sexually assaulted while in police custody or jail, which more than doubles (32 percent) for African-American transgender people. Five to nine percent of transgender survivors were sexually assaulted by police officers.4 Another 10 percent were assaulted by health care professionals.5

Hate crimes

Sexual assault perpetrated against transgender individuals may be a component of an anti-transgender hate crime or may be linked to other demographic variables such as race. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP):

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. . . . Many LGBTQ people also face substantial bias because they belong to other traditionally marginalized groups along other axes of identity such as race, class, incarceration history, immigration status, or ability. . . . membership in more than one traditionally marginalized community can increase targeting for severe violence.6

In the NCAVP 2009 report on hate violence, 50 percent of people who died in violent hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people were transgender women; the other half were male, many of whom were gender non-conforming.7 Sexual assault and/or genital mutilation before or after their murders was a frequent occurrence.

In 2009, 17 percent of all reported violent hate crimes against LGBTQ people were directed against those who identified themselves as transgender, with most (11 percent of all hate crimes) identifying as transgender women.8 The remainder identified as transgender men, genderqueer, gender questioning, or intersex.

Hate crimes are more prevalent against people of color. In 2009, 53 percent of LGBTQ hate crime victims were people of color.9 Of the 22 anti-LGBTQ hate crime murders documented by NCAVP that year, 79 percent of the victims were people of color.10 As noted above, 50 percent (11 individuals) of the 2009 murders tracked were transgender women; of those, 9 were people of color (82 percent). Of the other 11 murders of gender non-conforming people, 5 (45 percent) were people of color.11

Intimate partner violence

Many incidents of intimate partner violence include some form of sexual assault.12 According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, "bisexual women experienced significantly higher lifetime prevalence of rape and other sexual violence by an intimate partner when compared to heterosexual women" and "significantly higher lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner when compared to lesbian and heterosexual women."13 Some studies indicate that between 20 and 35 percent of LGBTQ couples experience domestic violence.14 According to another, 50 percent of transgender people surveyed had been hit by a primary partner after coming out as transgender.15 LGBTQ youth report a 30 percent incidence of dating violence, compared to 9 percent for heterosexual students.16

Only one in five LGBTQ victims of intimate partner violence or sexual assault get help from service providers.17