A transgender woman of color told D.C. police she was sexually assaulted Friday night, July 5, by an unidentified male suspect as she was walking through the Howard University campus on her way to her home, which is located on a residential street behind the campus.
The victim, who’s in her late 20s and who spoke to the Washington Blade on condition that she isn’t identified, said she is not a Howard student and doesn’t believe the perpetrator targeted her because she’s transgender.
A D.C. police report says the incident took place between 11:40 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. on July 5 outside the Howard University Health Science Library building on the 500 block of W Street, N.W.
“The complainant reports that between the listed times, the suspect who is unknown to her followed her on foot for several city blocks while continuously verbalizing an interest in her to which she responded that she was not interested in talking to him,” the report says.
“She reported that as they passed the front of the listed location, the suspect grabbed on to her by placing a hand around her waist, after which he placed a hand under her dress, touched her genitals and pulled at the top of her undergarment while attempting to kiss her,” the report continues. “She stated that she was able to disengage from him and continue to walk,” the report says.
The victim told the Blade the attacker continued to pursue her after she believes he discovered by touching her “private area” that she was a trans woman.
“I’m assuming he realized I was not, you know, I guess the woman he was looking for — I guess a cisgender female if you will,” the victim said. “He proceeded to struggle with me…and he pressed against me,” she said. “I’m saying stop, please do not do this – no, please do not do this,” she told the Blade.
After entering her nearby residence she immediately called 911 and reported the incident to D.C. police, she told the Blade. The police report lists the incident as an offense of “Third Degree Sex Abuse – Force.”
D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, said the case remains under active investigation. Parson said police have no evidence based on information provided by the victim that the incident could be classified as a bias related or hate crime based on the victim’s gender identity.
Transgender rights advocate Lourdes Ashley Hunter, executive director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, said the victim is a member of the Collective. Hunter said that although the attacker may not have initially targeted the victim because she’s a trans woman, the incident becomes yet another in several recent cases in which trans women of color in the D.C. area have been victims of violent crime.
“Trans women of color have been targets of physical violence, even death not only in the District but across the country,” Hunter said in a statement. “This year alone 11 reported murders of Black trans women were recorded,” said Hunter, noting that two of those murders occurred in Prince George’s County, Md., just across the D.C. border.
“Walking on a college campus can put you at risk of sexual assault,” she said. “Simply existing as a Black trans woman puts you in the line of fire literally.”
Trans rights advocate Dana Beyer, executive director of the trans advocacy group Gender Rights Maryland, said she too doesn’t believe the evidence shows that the July 5 sexual assault incident on the Howard campus was an anti-trans hate crime.
“This points out he assaulted her because she is a woman,” Beyer said. “This is just another assault on a woman, and trans women are women,” added Beyer. “It is not an anti-LGBT hate crime. It is a misogynistic crime.”