Jessica Fowler, 31, (left) and Amber Harrell, 38, have been charged with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping over an alleged attack on a transgender woman in North Carolina.
Photo: Raleigh/Wake City-County Bureau of Identification

North Carolina police have charged two women with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping in a connection to an alleged attack on a transgender woman in a North Carolina bar bathroom in December.

NPR reports that the victim, a 29-year-old transgender woman, called 911 over the December 9th incident at Milk Bar in Raleigh. “I was going to the bathroom to check hair and makeup and there were two females in the bathroom,” she told the police dispatcher. “I thought they were two drunk people just being friendly.”

But then the assailants, Amber Harrell, 38, and Jessica Fowler, 31, began harassing her. In the call, made the day after the incident, the victim said that the women began mocking her genitals and one of the women exposed her breasts. The two women then followed the victim out of the bar, groped her, and “would not let go” of her body despite repeated pleas to stop. The bartender intervened, asking the women to stop.

In her complaint, the woman said she was raped last year, and the incident triggered a panic attack.

The incident is one example of the type of harassment and violence that trans people face in public spaces. While Republicans love to peddle the myth that allowing trans people in bathrooms will lead to more violence against girls and women, in reality, their policies are putting trans people—who remain face a disproportionately high rate of violence, harassment, and discrimination—at greater risk. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2018 at least 26 trans people were murdered, and in a 2017 report on fatal violence in the trans community, the organization found that 86 percent of those murdered were black, Hispanic, or Native American.

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Over the past several years, North Carolina has become a battleground for transgender rights. In 2016, the state overturned an anti-trans bathroom bill, H.B.2, after facing backlash that led to businesses and organizations boycotting the state. After the blowback subsided, in 2017 the legislature repealed parts of the law that banned trans people from using bathrooms based on gender identity, but continued restrict anti-discrimination protections. The ACLU has challenged the law.

Harrell’s lawyer declined to comment to NPR, while Fowler’s did not respond. If convicted, they will be registered as sex offenders.