As the controversy surrounding transgender people and which bathrooms they may use continues to brew, some claim that having non-discrimination bathroom policies pose a risk to women and children.
Melissa G. Rodriguez, director of community partnerships for the Hays Caldwell Women’s Center, said in a statement that the center wants to “set the record straight” about the danger to women and children where public restrooms are concerned.
“We know that when women and girls are sexually assaulted, it’s most likely to be perpetrated by someone they already know and not a random stranger,” Rodriguez said. “According to national and state statistics, 90 percent of sexual assaults are committed by a known perpetrator such as husbands, dates, fathers, coaches, youth leaders, religious leaders, doctors and the list goes on.”
This statistic is even higher on a local level, she said. Last year, HCWC served 468 adult victims of sexual assault and 397 child abuse victims, the vast majority of which identified as child sexual abuse.
“Less than one percent of the alleged perpetrators were strangers meaning that close to 99 percent had some type of known relationship to their victims,” Rodriguez said.
Public campaigns against transgender-friendly bathroom policies have appealed to the notion of protecting the safety of women and children. Rodriguez said that statistically, men and boys are at risk for sexual victimization as 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
“(Men and boys) also deserve our attention and protection,” Rodriguez said. “You see, this most violent and traumatic crime occurs under the guise of secrecy and it’s accompanied by a society full of victim blaming. They count on it.”
Texas State’s Student Government is open to consider the issue of bathroom policies if the student body wishes to have such a discussion.
“Student Government’s mission is to establish avenues for student involvement in university affairs, act as servants to the student body and be the representatives of our constituents,” said Student Body President Andrew Homann. “It is the responsibility of a representative government to ensure that an environment is created where everyone on campus feels comfortable.”
Homann pointed out that the university currently has family restrooms which are gender neutral and open for any student to use, regardless of gender identity.
“Student Government is open to hear and discuss any concerns that students have campus-wide,” Homann said. “We recognize it is then Student Government’s responsibility to implement a plan that best represents the interest of the entire student body.”
The so-called “bathroom battle” has taken center stage in national politics after stances on the issue has made their way into both legislation and the policies of large corporations. North Carolina’s lawmakers recently passed a bill that mandates people must use the restroom that corresponds to their sex as it was assigned at birth, rather than the gender they identify with.
Passage of the bill evoked emotion from both sides of the issue, as did Target’s announcement of their new bathroom policies in April. The company released a statement saying transgender customers and team members were welcome to use the bathrooms and fitting rooms that corresponds with their gender identity.
Although some saw the announcement as a victory, opponents threatened to boycott the business because they felt it could potentially put women and children at risk. In response, Target reversed the policy and said the company was working to ensure a third, unisex restroom option is present in order to ensure the comfort of all the store’s guests.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has publicly denounced policies such as Target’s, and recently began a petition to “keep men out of women’s restrooms.” This is the same sentiment former Texas Governor Rick Perry expressed when he led a campaign against Houston’s “Equal Rights Ordinance,” which was a bill protecting all citizens from discrimination, and touched on the issue of bathroom privileges. The ordinance was ultimately defeated.
Rodriguez said it is easy to perpetuate the wrong idea of a sexual perpetrator when living in a society where blame for sexual assault often falls on the victim for their attire, behavior or activities.
“We make it about strangers hidden behind bushes, in bathrooms, in dark alleys so when this crime doesn’t fit this idea we feel most comfortable with, we make assumptions that victims must be lying,” Rodriguez said. “Or worse yet, that somehow they asked for it and deserved what happened to them.”