A new study revealed transgender, non-binary and genderqueer students are at higher risk for sexual assault if they attend a school with bathroom restrictions.
Researchers looked at data from the LGBTQ Teen Study, an anonymous web survey of US kids ages 13 to 17. The survey contains information from 3,673 teenagers in the country. They published their findings in the journal Pediatrics on Monday (6 May).
When looking at the respondents as a whole, 1 in 4 (25.9%) described themselves as victims of sexual assault in the last 12 months.
For non-cisgender LGBTI students, this rate was significantly higher. Nearly 4 in 10 (36%) of these students who attend schools with bathroom restrictions said they were sexually assaulted.
Researchers defined bathroom restrictions as an environment where teachers or staff have informed students they cannot use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity.
When politics turn violent
The debate about bathroom access became a nationwide conversation in 2016.
That year, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education released guidance together that institutions must treat a person’s gender identity as their sex, thereby protecting it under Title IX.
That same year, the Supreme Court decided to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student suing a Virginia school district after his school refused to let him use the bathroom corresponding to his gender identity.
Unfortunately, while the Obama administration officially supported Grimm, the Trump administration revoked support for transgender students. The Supreme Court then reversed its decision to hear the case.
North Carolina then continued the debate in a big way when they passed House Bill 2 in 2016. Though it was then replaced with another restrictive bill in 2017, a federal judge last year ruled this second law does not prohibit trans people from using the restroom corresponding to their gender identity.
An ‘indicator’ of dangerous environments
‘Unfortunately, kids’ access to restrooms and locker rooms has become very politicized in some communities,’ said Gabriel Murchison.
Murchison is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of this new study.
The study, Murchison clarified, does not state the restrictive bathroom rules are the reason for the increase in sexual assault cases, but that there is a connection.
‘They are certainly a strong indicator of environments where kids are at risk,’ he said.
He also explained that the discussion becoming a nationwide debate has put non-cisgender students in the spotlight. This could also partly explain the increase.