Trans women, sexual assault and prison

This is a topic I’ve written about a number of times on twitter, but I’m gradually realising that while I have a fair amount of reach there, things I write there are extremely ephemeral and as such there’s a tendency for these things to become just part of the passing deluge of outrage that haunts the stolen moments people take to indulge in doomscrolling while working. Consequently, apologies for this being roughly a 2 year old story. It’s one I commented on at the time, and noone really seems to have done anything about.

I would also like to be clear from the beginning of this piece that prisons exist as a place for enacting violence against people who are incarcerated, that there is no such thing as safety in a prison, and drawing attention to the dire state of affairs trans women in the male estate have been consigned to is not at all intended as a legitimisation of prison as a solution to harms. Prisons are categorically an institution for doing harm to people.

We have a problem in the UK with sexual assault in prisons. In particular we have a problem with sexual assault of trans women in prisons. This was revealed in a BBC story last year in May, where it was shown that 11 trans women had been sexually assaulted in the previous year alone. For the last 4 years, the national media conversation on the status of trans women in prisons has been utterly dominated by the threat that trans women pose to cisgender women prisoners when accommodated in the female prison population.

The following statistics compare the information from the BBC story regarding 2019 data with data from the Safety in Custody Bulletin put out by the Ministry of Justice for 2019

Image for post
Image for post

The number of trans women in the men’s estate is a disputable figure — trans people in prison may be reluctant to disclose their transgender identity as a result of the vulnerability which is commonly faced by trans people inside. However, it seems reasonable to use these comparative statistics as the count of sexual assaults against trans women in the men’s estate can only be recognised as selected from the the population of known and identifiable trans people within the estate.

What these numbers show is that while men in the male estate and women in the female estate face roughly similar rates of sexual assault inside, transgender women placed in the men’s estate face nearly 15 times the rate of sexual violence faced by the rest of either prison population put together, around 10 times the rate of women in the female estate.

Given the amount of effort the British press has put into demonising trans women in prison and focusing on the threat they pose as a tiny and vulnerable minority to others, this shows how utterly depraved the media have become on transgender issues. With supposed human rights experts continuing to mis-use statistics on trans criminality dating back to the 1970s and refusing to pay attention to issues in the present day, it seems unlikely things are getting better any time soon.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store