November 30, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Trans woman reports rape in D.C. shelter

D.C. police on Nov. 26 arrested a 19-year-old male resident of a group home for abused and neglected youth for allegedly sexually assaulting a transgender woman of the same age who also lived in the home.

Records filed in D.C. Superior Court show that police charged James Cottom with first-degree sexual abuse against the transgender woman at the Saga Adventures group home at 2808 Pomeroy Rd., S.E.

A police arrest affidavit says the woman told police she was asleep in her bed in an upper floor bedroom when she was awakened by Cottom, who was “standing next to her bed looking at her and holding an orange condom wrapper and some lubricant.”

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The affidavit says the woman told him, “What are you doing in my room? Get out.” It says Cottom replied, “I want to fuck.”

According to the affidavit, the woman attempted to run out of the room but Cottom grabbed her, threw her onto the bed, and forced her to engage in receptive anal intercourse while she struggled to break free. It says Cottom, who wore a condom during the assault, fled the room after the woman managed to call another resident in the house for help on her phone.

The affidavit says the person whom the trans woman called for help called police a short time later. It says the woman “positively identified” Cottom as the person who assaulted her, and police arrested him on the scene.

Arnett Smith, administrator of the Saga Adventures house, confirmed that the incident occurred at the house. He said the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), which places children and youth at the house, transferred Cottom to another city-approved youth facility while he awaits trial.

The CFSA website says it serves as the city’s public child and youth welfare agency responsible for children and youth at risk of abuse and neglect in their homes. It says when the agency determines children and youth aren’t safe in their homes, it places them in foster care or facilities such as group homes.

D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd, an official with the local organization Transgender Health Empowerment, has expressed concern that transgender youth placed in city and private shelters and group homes have often encountered abuse and violence from other residents of the facilities.

Budd and other transgender activists have called on the city to take steps to protect transgender residents of shelters and group homes.

When asked if the group homes operated by Saga Adventures provide adequate security for LGBT residents, Smith said they do.

“You can rest assured that the people are safe there,” he said.

But when asked how his security arrangements enabled one resident of his group home to sexually assault another, he declined to comment, saying strict rules of confidentiality for the juvenile residents of the facility prevented him from discussing a specific case.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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