This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Amidst the ongoing debate about transgender bathrooms, a sudden interest in the safety of women has appeared. Recently, the most popular reason for forcing people who don't "look like the right gender" to use specific bathrooms is to maintain safety from sexual predators. This argument is surprising to me on two levels, the first being that research has already disproven the validity; the second being that women's issues are being exploited in order to legally reinforce discrimination.
Thanks to research, we now know that most sexual abuse occurs between people who are related to each other or know each other in some way. While there may have been some isolated incidents of men dressing up as women to assault women in bathrooms, these incidents are outliers, and to cite them as anything else is frankly a prejudiced criminalization of transgendered persons. Predators use many disguises, the most common of which are "Daddy," "Neighbor," and "Friend." We are all at risk of sexual assault in any time or place, because regardless of how we may dress, it takes a perpetrator to perpetrate. Changing the way people are allowed to relieve themselves won't change the risks of sexual assault.
The second reason for my surprise is the assertion that legislators, law enforcement and people in general are concerned about the sexual assault of women. In forensic labs across the nation, there are many rape kits that never get turned in or tested. In colleges across America, rapists are allowed to take class, play sports, hold scholarships and graduate while their victims are psychologically and often academically destroyed. The current statistic in the U.S. is 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. It is approximated that 70 percent of sexual assaults go unreported because victims don't want to go through the publicizing of the worst thing to ever happen to them. This is underlined by the knowledge that their rapists, if convicted, will likely spend very little time in jail. That being said, are we expected to believe that a concern for preventing the sexual assault of women is at the forefront of political decision-making? If so, how impeccably convenient!
The Federalist recently published an article entitled, "A Rape Survivor Speaks Out About Transgender Bathrooms." This pithy title has everyone excited to support survivors of rape, and truly I believe that they are well-meaning. However, this rape survivor, yours truly, would like to speak out as well.
I have horrific flashbacks of my assaults as well. I, too, see pictures of myself at the age of my assault and feel a need to protect that person. I do not want predators to have open access to my body, or anyone's body for that matter. But, rather than see this as a reason to force transgendered person into one bathroom or another, I see it as a reason to pursue the issue of sexual assault. The core of this issue isn't a criminal's "access" to young girls, but the criminal's actions. I agree with the author's statement, "Victimizers use any opening they can find." What I do not agree with is restricting the rights of an entire group based on fear of what a criminal might do. A male person set on assaulting a female person, will find a way to do so, bathroom law or not.
Women do not need protection in the form of criminalizing transgendered persons through bathroom laws. What women need is for predators to stop preying.
Mallory Rogers is clinical research coordinator in the Department of Psychiatry and a Master of Social Work student at the University of Utah.