Transgender Day of Remembrance

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Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual event, during which members of the LGBTQ community and allies across the country gather and hold vigils to honor the memories of transgender men and women whose lives have been taken by acts of violence. This will be a big year for the TDOR vigil because since the first of the year, it’s estimated that 20 transgender individuals have been murdered in the United States… that we know of.

So what does this have to do with sexual violence?

Everything.

The violence inflicted on transgender individuals includes rape and sexual assault. In fact, transgender individuals are at extremely high risk of becoming victims of sexual violence. The statistics are startling. It’s estimated that one in two transgender individuals have experienced sexual abuse or assault. The rates of sexual violence only increase when you take a deeper look at the transgender community. Those who are at the greatest risk of victimization are also the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community and society at large:

  • Transgender youth – 12%
  • Transgender individuals of color – 13%
  • Transgender individuals who are homeless – 22%

 
Ok, that’s pretty rough, but that’s why we have rape crisis centers, right?

Yes, to an extent, that is true. However, transgender survivors face significant barriers when attempting to access support services. It is well known that the majority of all sexual assaults – 68% – are not reported to the police. Survivors have many valid reasons to not make a report, such as fear of retaliation, not wanting the offender to get in trouble (especially if the survivor knows them), fear of getting in trouble if they were using drugs or drinking underage when they were assaulted, fear of facing deportation if they are undocumented, and more. A major reason that sexual assaults go unreported is that survivors often feel re-victimized in the process, a type of trauma known as secondary victimization. Victim-blaming attitudes and insensitivity on the part of service providers further traumatizes survivors, especially those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.  In the case of transgender individuals, the perpetrators of sexual violence are sometimes service providers, institutions, and “helping” professionals themselves. Many transgender survivors have reported being sexually assaulted by police officers and health care professionals.

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Protections for Transgender Survivors under VAWA

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The 2012 winter may not have been as cold as this past year, but it was surely chilling when the 112th Congress failed to reauthorize an amended version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These amendments included enhanced protections for immigrant, Native American and tribal, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) survivors of domestic and sexual violence. But with the 113th Congress, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 was passed and signed into law on March 7, 2013. Although not all the provisions were adopted into the new law, considerable steps were taken in protecting a population that is so often overlooked: the transgender and gender non-conforming community.

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Transgender Awareness Week

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Transgender Awareness Week 2013For many, November marks the time of the year to be thankful for everyone and everything we hold near and dear to us. In the trans*gender community and its allies, the end of November signifies more than that. This November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day that memorializes those who have been killed because of anti-trans violence.

Anti-trans violence is very real and its numbers are extremely disturbing. In 2012, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported 25 hate-related homicides against the LGBTQ community in the United States. Of that 25, more than half of the victims were trans women of color, which is a shocking 40% increase of violence against trans women since 2011.  The transgender community faces particularly high rates of public discrimination as well, including unemployment; extreme poverty; harassment in schools, jobs, and on streets; and higher rates of physical and sexual assault.

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New Year, New Chance to Pass VAWA

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At the start of 2013, staff at the Center fielded many questions about potential repercussions when the 112th Congress did not reauthorize VAWA. Just one month later, we find the 113th Congress committed to action. Last week, Senate Bill 47 passed to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID). And now, this bill is once again in the hands of the House of Representatives.

Why We Need VAWA

The Senate-approved bill is very similar to the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Leahy and Crapo last Congress and would improve VAWA programs and strengthen protections for all victims of violence. It includes many important improvements, such as addressing the criminal justice response to sexual assault, domestic violence homicides, housing needs, and campus victimization, all of which were included in legislation last year.

The current Senate bill also includes enhanced protections for tribal, LGBT, and immigrant victims. These extra provisions were identified as critical priorities by advocates across the country and received bipartisan support both last year and this year in the Senate.

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VAWA Is Still Alive and Needs Your Voice!

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Pass VAWA!Aside from presents, way too much food, and time spent with loved ones, your holiday season was undoubtedly filled with debates about Congress and the looming “fiscal cliff”. If your family is anything like mine, I am sure those were very lively dinner table discussions. But with the fiscal cliff dust settling, you may not have heard that Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Since 1994, the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), has been charged with improving our nation’s ability to prevent and respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Nineteen years ago, then-Senator Joe Biden pushed Congress to promote a national strategy that would protect women from violent crimes and hold offenders accountable, in what is now a very historic piece of legislation.
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