February 26, 2018 at 7:46 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Barbados police criticized for response to attack on trans activist

Alexa Hoffmann, a transgender rights advocate in Barbados, says her ex-roommate attacked her outside of her home on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Alexa Hoffman)

A transgender rights activist in Barbados who says her ex-roommate attacked her claims the police mistreated her because of her gender identity.

Alexa Hoffmann told the Washington Blade last week during a WhatsApp interview that her ex-roommate attacked her with a meat cleaver near her home in the parish of Christ Church on Feb. 18 at around 12:15 a.m.

Hoffmann told the Blade she allowed him to move in with her on Dec. 12, even though he did not have a way to support himself. Hoffmann said her ex-roommate had stolen cell phone chargers, a tablet, jewelry and other items by the time she asked him to move out on Jan. 22.

Hoffmann said she allowed him to live with her for another two weeks because his girlfriend was about to visit. Hoffmann told the Blade she kicked him out on Valentine’s Day, two days after his girlfriend arrived in Barbados.

Hoffmann told the Blade she asked her ex-roommate’s girlfriend and a female friend, who lives nearby, to ask him to return the stolen items. Hoffmann added she even told the two women what time she would be home.

Hoffmann said she tried to give her ex-roommate some of his belongings that he had left at her home when he, his girlfriend his friend were walking down the street. Hoffmann, who told the Blade that she was carrying a switchblade to defend herself, said her ex-roommate “started to make a swing at me.”

She said he attacked her with a meat cleaver that he stole from her kitchen.

“Then he just continued charging at me and slashing,” said Hoffmann. “It felt more as though I was banging my head into a wall.”

The attack left Hoffmann with cuts on her forehead, nose and upper lip. She also had cuts on the left side of her neck, on her throat and on her left shoulder.

Hoffmann said her glasses were also broken.

Hoffmann told the Blade she called the police from her home after the attack. She said officers told her go to the hospital and fill out a form that would allow them to determine which charges to file against her ex-roommate.

Hoffmann said she received stitches after spending 13 hours at the hospital. She also told the Blade the police “made no attempt to pick him (her ex-roommate) up that night,” even though she told them where his girlfriend and he were.

“I started running into difficulty with the police,” said Hoffmann, adding the police told her the responding officer was off-duty for two days. “I said that’s nonsense . . . this man is still running around armed and dangerous.”

Hoffmann said a desk sergeant at the police station took a statement from her before she returned home.

She said her ex-roommate’s girlfriend “practically threatened me” on Facebook after she posted a message about the attack. Hoffmann said she called the police after her ex-roommate’s friend who she said witnessed the attack came to her home on Feb. 19.

Hoffmann told the Blade she went to the police station the following day and met with a “very abrasive sergeant” who told her that officers were looking for her ex-roommate. Hoffmann said the officers “did not want to deal with me” and the sergeant with whom she had spoken was “storming up and down the police station saying I was he, she, I don’t know.”

“She was referring to me,” she told the Blade. “She knows very well that I am transgender.”

Hoffmann said she called the Barbados Civil Aviation Department that oversees security at the island’s international airport on Feb. 21 and told the constable her ex-roommate and his girlfriend may try to board a flight to Canada. Hoffmann told the Blade authorities arrested her former roommate a few hours later at the airport.

Hoffmann said her ex-roommate on Feb. 23 pleaded not guilty when he made his initial court appearance.

She said his girlfriend could not post his bail because she is not a Barbadian citizen.

Hoffmann told the Blade her ex-roommate said two other people could post his bail. She said prosecutors did not object, as long as he agrees not to harass her and stay away from her home.

“I don’t trust him,” said Hoffmann. “I believe he’s a very calculating and conniving fucker and that he might actually try to do something to cause me harm.”

She further stressed she remains afraid of her ex-roommate, even though someone else is now living with her.

Hoffmann ‘was attacked within inches of her life’

The Blade was unable to reach the Royal Barbados Police Force for comment. Ro-Ann Mohammad of Barbados-Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination (B-GLAD), on Feb. 22 told a Barbados newspaper the police only responded to Hoffmann’s case when her organization contacted them.

“Alexa was attacked within inches of her life,” Mohammad told the newspaper.

“We call strongly on the authorities who are put in place to protect and serve, above all, to recognize the humanity of vulnerable communities like gender and sexual minorities,” added Mohammad.

Marcela Romero, regional coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People, also criticized the police’s response to Hoffmann’s case.

“Alexa is a trans human rights defender in Barbados and we believe it is crucial that the state guarantees her security and of all trans people in the country,” said Romero in a statement her organization released on Feb. 22. “Unfortunately, trans women from Latin America and the Caribbean cannot access the right to justice due to the stigma and discrimination that exists in police stations, ombudsmen offices and judicial.”

Hoffmann told the Blade she has participated in LGBT-sensitivity workshops with the police. She nevertheless said officers continue to harass and mistreat lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially trans Barbadians while they are in their custody.

“I would like to see them held to account for their actions,” said Hoffmann.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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