The untouchable: Reporting rape as a trans survivor

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site. *Trigger warning*

I am a survivor of campus rape, stalking, and an anti-trans hate attack. At this time last year, I was celebrating the end of my first semester at Temple University — not because of school itself, but because I’d lived in terror since my first full weekend there. When I was raped, it was put on display against my will. As the first student in the 2013–2014 school year to be raped, I was to be the school’s warning to the student body.

I was their warning because I was intoxicated when I was raped. I was at a bar on campus when my rapist came up to me. I was hanging out there, trying to get a feel for college life. He bought me a beer and gave it to me while I was distracted by something else. We headed back to my dorm, where we were able to enter unhindered because the security didn’t notice I was drunk. He told me to take off my shirt and I did it, without thinking. When he asked for oral sex and I said no to him, I attempted to resist but it wasn’t enough. He ended up raping me. I blacked out while it was happening. When I woke up, he was masturbating over me. When I went to check him out of the residence hall, the security guards noticed that I was drunk. As protocol dictates, they called the police, more guards, and EMTs. The responders all looked at me and could tell I was drunk, but didn’t care that I had my rapist’s semen all over me. They were too busy chatting and laughing it up with my rapist to notice. That was the last time I saw him; they let him go, and he ran out of the building like it was on fire.

Deep down, I knew reporting my rape could backfire, but I never imagined how badly it would blow up in my face. But I didn’t have much of a choice: because I’d been drinking the night I was raped, I was facing sanctions for drinking; not reporting my rape would have earned me more disciplinary action. But I never understood why I was forced to report, and ultimately, it caused more trouble than it was worth. My rapist was allowed to go unpunished.

I’ve never known terror the way I did on campus after I reported my rape — particularly since my University is entirely hostile to transgender and gender non-conforming people. The administration, in no uncertain terms, told me that they felt uncomfortable dealing with a transgender survivor, particularly a trans woman survivor. It didn’t make sense to me — they had helped both men and women who were survivors, but not me. But now I understand that they bought into the idea that trans women are unrapeable, that we exist entirely and solely to be consumed by men. Consent doesn’t matter, in their eyes. I suffered greatly because of this.

From the start, the investigation into my rape was mishandled. University Police, working with University Housing and Residential Life, destroyed evidence that they possessed and ignored evidence I presented. Semen-stained carpeting that was brought in by a roommate was completely ignored and I was not given a rape kit. That was the most humiliating part of it all. I was covered in my rapist’s bodily fluids and anyone who looked at me could tell, but there was no rape kit done and I was never even asked if I wanted one. It wasn’t until this year that I discovered it didn’t matter anyway; they explicitly do not give rape kits to anyone who does not have a vagina (despite the fact that rape kits can and have been used on individuals assigned male at birth).

Knowing now what I do — that the rape investigation was damned from the start because no biological evidence would be taken — is a slap in the face. I was forced to report, retell, and relive my rape over and over again, only for there to be no Student Conduct Code hearings against him (he wasn’t even given so much as a disciplinary warning), no criminal investigation, and no closure whatsoever. In fact, the last time I ever spoke to the University Police, which was this year, they told me they reached a conclusion in the case. Yet they never actually investigated it.

After what happened to me, I would tell other trans survivors at my University not to bother reporting. There is no point, and they will not care. That’s what I was told, and that’s how they made me feel. I lived in terror, fearing retaliation from the University and more harassment from its student body, and had no solace until I could finally leave. As soon as they found out I’m trans, they ignored me. They would see me come to their offices and resource centers day after day and ignore me every time. It got to the point where all they would do is send their student workers to talk to me and make me tell them what happened and lead me on as if finally I would get help. Then I’d be told that they wouldn’t or couldn’t help me.

Coming forward as a survivor is hard. Misogyny keeps women from speaking up because society is not inclined to believe them. I was met with misogyny and transphobia; administrators believed that a rape had taken place, but at the same time, they didn’t believe a trans woman could be raped. They believed that on August 24th, 2013, a rape occurred in my dorm. They also believed that even though it was rape, as a trans woman, I deserved it. And that somehow even though they knew that my rapist was a serial rapist (why they didn’t take action before, I don’t know), it didn’t matter because he targeted me, a transgender woman.

The only support I had was the woman who would eventually be as close to me as a sister. I am eternally grateful to her for being there when nobody else was. She made this livable; had it not been for her presence in my life, I would have killed myself. And that’s not hyperbole — she’s saved me from that fate, twice. To her, I owe a debt that is unpayable. Her love for me made this an experience that was survivable.

From time to time, the flashbacks are so horrible that I can’t leave my bed. I feel his hands on me, I smell him on me; I have never had such vivid memories of anything else. Even though this would be hard, even if everything went my way, it was made harder than it needed to be. I implore people to listen to survivors. To know that no matter what gender you are, what sex you were assigned at birth, no matter any other demographic you may fit into, you can still be raped. And that all people, regardless of anything else, deserve to live a life without rape and deserve support if they are raped.

Believe survivors. Support survivors. Love survivors.

Header image credit: Jeannine Keefer/Flickr


I'm a latinegrx trans woman anti-violence survivor-activist and writer. Although my work focuses on college campuses, I am dedicated to wiping out violence against transgender women of color on all fronts.

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