Hey there, person who is boycotting Target or posting angry rants on Facebook about bathroom laws.
You say it has nothing to do with people who are transgender for you. You say you are worried about children and maybe women who could be assaulted by a man posing as a woman under the new laws. You say it is about safety, not bias and unease related to people who are transgender. You may even be outraged! Angry that our nation is one that will pass such laws putting children in danger of sexual abuse in such an open manner.
I am calling bullshit on you.
There, I said it.
Here’s my question to you, oh champion of children: why is your open disgust and protective instinct just rearing its ugly head now? Children have been suffering sexual assault for a long, long time in horrible circumstances and with lifelong consequences. Many turn to drug or alcohol abuse and far too many attempt or succeed at suicide.
And, by and large, they are victims to this sexual assault in a residence and by someone they know.
And yet you scream and cry about public bathrooms and hypothetical strangers dressed as women.
These facts are not new. Where was your outrage before this bathroom controversy? Because the threat of childhood sexual assault is real, and it has so very little–really, nothing–to do with public bathrooms.
I am going to summon my better nature and assume you do not know the facts. Let me share some with you:
According to studies by the Center for Violence and Injury Prevention and the National Center for Juvenile Justice (US Department of Justice), 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker: 34.2% of attackers were family members, and 58.7% were acquaintances.
Only 7% of perpetrators were strangers to the victim.
Based on these facts, your child is far, far, FAR more likely to be sexually assaulted at your family picnic than in a bathroom at Target.
Let me drill down even deeper. It’s hard to get a good grasp on the numbers, because of course so much of child sexual abuse goes unreported (like mine). But I tried to do a little research and get some numbers.
Most sources say either 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 girls are victims of sexual abuse as children. Since the numbers varied, let’s split the difference and say 1 in 4.5 of these girls will be (or sadly already are) victims of sexual assault.
For boys its more like 1 in 20. Sexual assault perpetrated against boys is a horrible thing, and should not be ignored. But for the purposes of this exercise and the bulk of the controversy over bathrooms (and to make me do less weird math) I am going to stick with girls for now.
Now let’s pause and acknowledge that 1 in 4.5 is a horribly, terribly, shockingly large number. THIS. MANY. GIRLS. Your fear about the threat of sexual assault is not unfounded.
But where is this threat originating from? Is it really about bathrooms? Let me dig deeper.
According to the US Census data (census.gov/popclock), as of the time I write this, the US population is about 323,547,400.
Girls between ages 7-13 have the highest incidence of sexual abuse, and they comprise 4.43% of the population (same source).
That means the number of girls ages 7-13 in the US right now is about 14,333,150.
If 1 in every 4.5 of these girls already are or will become victims, we have roughly 3,185,144 girls. Just take a moment to let that staggering number sink in: over three million girls between the ages of 7-13 have been or will be sexually assaulted.
We can apply our earlier statistic that 93% of juvenile assault victims know their attacker. That means we can isolate the 7% who will be or already have been assaulted by complete strangers (this is the group to whom the bathroom situation everyone is in such a tizzy over would apply).
Let me just repeat this: 93% are assaulted by someone they know, yet people are screaming about the hypothetical situation that COULD POSSIBLY HYPOTHETICALLY happen to just 7%. (Bullshit.)
Continuing on with the facts:
This leaves us with 222,960 girls between the ages of 7 and 13 in the US who are or will become victims of sexual assault by strangers.
This is the pool of young girls who could potentially be assaulted by a stranger–such as a predator posing as a woman in a public restroom, which is the supposed source of the fear I’m reading and hearing about.
But guess what? We can narrow that pool even further by cross-referencing data on the location at which an assault is most likely to take place.
According to a US DOJ report on sexual abuse built from reports to law enforcement, 84% of child sexual assaults in a similar age range take place in a residence.
If we apply that figure to the pool of girls we have narrowed down, we have 16% out of our 222,960…leaving us with 35,674 girls who are or will be sexually assaulted by a person they do not know in a place other than a residence.
So that’s .25% of the entire population of girls in this age group in the US who will be or already have been assaulted by a stranger somewhere outside of a home.
That’s 1 in (roughly) 402 girls.
But this number isn’t even narrow enough, because we’re just saying the place of the assault is “not a residence.” This number would include places like parks and playgrounds and cars and is not just limited to public restrooms, so our .25% figure is not even accurate to describe the supposed threat of a stranger in a bathroom. Maybe it’s half of this figure? I am not sure. I could not find any data on this.
But the fact remains that essentially, you are speaking out in anger at something that has less than a quarter of a percent chance of happening to your daughter…and still remains largely a hypothetical.
No, we should not ignore the plight of these girls who are assaulted by strangers in places other than a residence. I am not in any way suggesting this. These girls need protection and safety.
What I am calling bullshit on is the extrapolation of a hypothetical threat from a small subsection of a shockingly large group of girls who are victims, because that is IGNORING COMPLETELY the largest, most looming, ugliest and most stomach-churning reality:
- the biggest threat is in your own home, in the homes of your families and friends, in the places your daughter already feels safe and with the people your daughter already trusts.
Fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, grandfathers, neighbors, family friends–they are the overwhelming perpetrators of these crimes, not faceless cross-dressing pedophiles.
This is the reality you are ignoring and I am just…stunned.
I am stunned and shocked and personally hurt by your blindness. YES I SAID IT. You are turning a blind eye to largest and most looming threat to your daughter.
You are turning away from the real threat because it is ugly and very, VERY uncomfortable and instead you are marginalizing even further a group of people who has already been marginalized, a group of people who are just looking for a place to pee in peace.
You are extremely uncomfortable with the fact that your daughter is statistically safer in a public bathroom than she is in the home of someone she knows, so you are transferring your fear to an easy target: people who are transgender.
“But your facts will change, Stephanie!” You say. “Because PREDATORS! They will take advantage of these laws and dress like women and get my kids! The law is enabling them and they will use any opening they can to get my child. This law will change your data and the number of bathroom assaults by strangers will go up and up and up!”
Guess what? States that have had these laws in place for up to 15 years report seeing no incidence of increased sexual assaults due to the passage of these laws. Here you go:
I hope by now you are calling bullshit on yourself, because you should be.
Listen, I have a daughter. And obviously I have a strong need to protect her from her being victimized in any way given what I went through.
And this bathroom thing is a non-issue to me. Because the threat related to these laws is non-existent.
Predators exist, folks, bathroom laws or no. They’re out there, but, far more frequently, they are right here in our homes and around our children on a regular basis.
Why are you not more outraged about these basic facts? Why is it only when the issue is around people who are transgender that you yell and scream and make a fuss and say our children are in danger?
The threat of childhood sexual assault is real, and you are right to want to protect your daughters.
But it has nothing to do with bathrooms.
If you believe it has to do with bathrooms, you are sadly mistaken and yes, you have hit a very personal nerve for me.
I was abused in my own bed. By two different people that I loved.
Statistically speaking, I would have been safer in a Target bathroom with a woman who is transgender, and you insisting otherwise makes my blood boil.
Because where was your outrage for me? Where is your anger and sadness and ALL CAPS PSAs for the millions of other children who are assaulted and abused and hurt and victimized in millions of other locations besides a public bathroom? Why is THIS issue around bathrooms the wagon to which you are hitching your angry star?
These are serious questions. I hope you’ll really think about them. I probably can’t change anyone’s mind, but maybe I can make someone think.
But I think my most important question to you is: Is this really about sexual assault at all? Or is it more about your discomfort with people who are transgender?
I think for some people who are angry about the bathroom laws and boycotting Target, it is about protecting your children and now that you know the facts, you may see that the threat is not real. Hopefully you can see that your anger and fear is unfounded.
But that’s only some.
The rest are using this sexual assault nonsense as a camouflage because you are uncomfortable with the idea of a person who is transgender. And this is a convenient way to continue to marginalize this population in a way that makes it okay for you to do so because it’s about protecting children instead of your own biases.
You are the people that infuriate me the most.
How dare you co-opt the fear and shame and anger and grief borne by sexual assault victims to further your intolerant and hateful cause? How dare you insinuate that the threat is “other” when the biggest, most nefarious threat is right at home?
Your stance only serves to re-victimize girls–like me–who were abused by people we know in places we know. Girls who are left with a quiet sense of shame, who remain silent because people like you don’t want to face the hard realities of childhood sexual abuse and how close it is to home.
Because people like you continue to shake hands with our abusers and call them “good, family men” while vilifying marginalized populations. You bet your ass it’s personal.
You pervert our suffering to your own causes and make it that much harder for us to be safe.
Our children, our girls, ARE in grave danger and you are deflecting the real danger, and that disgusts me.