Trans teens face higher sexual assault risk when schools restrict bathrooms

(Reuters Health) – Transgender adolescents may be less likely to be sexually assaulted when they can use school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth, a U.S. survey suggests.

The survey of 3,673 trans and nonbinary teens in American middle schools and high schools found that more than one in four reported being sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months.

When schools required students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their sex assigned at birth, transgender boys – who identify as male but are labeled female on their birth certificates – were 26 percent more likely to experience sexual assault.

And transgender girls – who identify as female but were assigned male at birth – had more than twice the assault risk when they had to use restrooms and locker rooms for boys.

“We can’t tell from this study whether restrictive restroom and locker room policies cause sexual assault,” said lead study author Gabriel Murchison of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “However, at the least, they seem to be a marker for an environment where trans and non-binary youth are at risk.”

“This gives us a concrete place to start when it comes to making schools safer,” Murchison said by email.

Most transgender students say schools have placed limits on their restroom or locker room use, the researchers note in Pediatrics. Often, they’re required to use facilities based on their sex assigned at birth or sent to designated “unisex” restrooms that are not used by other students.

This may increase the potential for sexual assault in bathrooms and locker rooms, the study authors note. It may also make assault and victimization more likely in other locations by creating a climate that’s hostile to sexual minority youth.

Participants in the study were 15 years old on average. Overall, 26 percent of them reported experiencing sexual assault in the previous year. At schools with restrictive bathroom and locker room policies, that rate climbed to 35 percent.

Sexual harassment appeared to explain the increased risk of assault associated with bathroom and locker room restrictions. the study also found. It’s possible that this is because harassment often escalates to assault, and it is also possible that both experiences occur more often when schools don’t discipline this behavior or create an environment where students feel safe reporting it.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how bathroom policies might directly contribute to sexual assault.

One limitation of the study is that it didn’t include enough black or Hispanic students to assess how race or ethnicity might impact the risk of sexual assault or harassment, the study authors note. The study also had too few students who identified as nonbinary but were assigned male at birth to get precise estimates of the assault risk for these teens.

In an editorial, Dr. Stephen Rosenthal and Diane Ehrensaft, both of the University of California, San Francisco, point out that California is the only state that requires schools to let students use facilities that match their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth – and the new study didn’t look at the assault risk of trans and nonbinary teens in that state.

Even so, the results add to the evidence suggesting that failure to support trans and nonbinary youth can endanger both their physical and mental health, Rosenthal and Ehrensaft write.

“Transgender youth who express their gender identity but are required to use facilities matching their genitalia are not only at risk for verbal and physical harassment, including sexual abuse, but, not surprisingly, some will avoid using restrooms altogether, resulting in increased risk for inadequate fluid intake, urinary retention, urinary tract infections, impacted bowels, and school avoidance,” they write.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online May 6, 2019.


more recommended stories

  • African swine fever hits pig farm in northeast Bulgaria

    SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria reported on.

  • Biohaven’s treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease fails to win FDA nod

    FILE PHOTO: The logo for Biohaven.

  • WHO says investigators conclude Ebola victim did not enter Rwanda

    GENEVA (Reuters) – A Congolese woman.

  • Second opioid distributor charged over U.S. overdose crisis

    (Reuters) – An Ohio drug wholesale.

  • U.S. overdose deaths post annual drop for first time in two decades

    (Reuters) – U.S. overdose deaths dropped.

  • FDA finds ‘significant violations’ at India’s Strides plant

    (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and.

  • U.N. wants more urgency in AIDS fight as gains and funding fade

    LONDON (Reuters) – The global fight.

  • Oklahoma seeks to hold J&J responsible for opioid crisis as trial ends

    NORMAN, Okla. (Reuters) – Lawyers for.

  • Healthy living may help offset genetic risk of dementia: study

    LONDON (Reuters) – Living healthily with.

  • Democrats take aim as Trump abandons drug pricing plan

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats see U.S..

  • U.S. appeals court blocks Trump administration birth control exemptions

    (Reuters) – A federal appeals court.

  • China vows to tackle dead pig scam amid swine fever epidemic

    FILE PHOTO: Piglets are seen by.

  • Alberta joins Ontario in pulling some CannTrust weed products

    TORONTO (Reuters) – Alberta is placing.

  • Trump administration pushes U.S. at-home kidney care, transplant availability

    NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump.

  • U.S. appeals court signals sympathy to bid to strike down Obamacare

    NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – A federal.

  • U.S. judge strikes down Trump administration rule requiring drug prices in TV ads

    (Reuters) – A federal judge on.

  • Intra-Cellular drug fails one of two bipolar depression studies; shares fall

    (Reuters) – Intra-Cellular Therapies Inc said.

  • China reports new African swine fever outbreak in Guangxi region

    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s southwestern region.

  • Weed ban means no Rocky Mountain high for Canada’s Calgary Stampede

    CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Canada’s Calgary.

  • Weightlifting better at reducing heart fat than aerobic exercise

    Obese people who engaged in resistance.

  • Sydney’s city council reviews use of Bayer’s Roundup weed killer amid cancer fears

    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Sydney’s city council.

  • Bulgaria confirms two cases of African swine fever

    SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria has confirmed.

  • FDA approves Karyopharm Therapeutics’ blood cancer drug

    (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and.

  • Facebook to tackle content with misleading health claims

    FILE PHOTO: The Facebook logo is.

  • FDA ties three deaths to Edwards Lifesciences’ recalled heart devices

    (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and.

  • India asks its states not to partner with Philip Morris-funded foundation

    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s health.

  • U.S. federal court delays adoption of healthcare rule on abortion

    FILE PHOTO – A imaging table.

  • China tightens vaccine management after scandals

    FILE PHOTO – A nurse prepares.

  • U.S wages lost to unpaid family care to hit $147 billion by 2050

    As the U.S. population ages, the.

  • U.S. ‘gag rule’ linked to 40% jump in abortions in parts of Africa

    LONDON (Reuters) – A decades-old U.S..

  • Study shows major real-world impact of cervical cancer vaccines

    LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) – Vaccination.

  • Glyphosate use will eventually end, Merkel says

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a.