Police in North Carolina have charged two women with kidnapping and sexual battery after they allegedly sexually assaulted a transgender woman in the women’s restroom of a Raleigh bar.
The alleged victim, who was not identified, called police Dec. 10 to report that she was at Milk Bar the previous night and had gone to the bathroom to check her makeup when she was approached by Jessica Fowler, 31, and Amber Nicole Harrell, 38, who allegedly exposed themselves, groped her, and verbally abused her.
“She pulls her shirt up and is like ‘Do you want to see my boobs?’ and she presses me up against the wall with her bare chest,” the woman told a 911 dispatcher in a recording obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The woman said the assault continued at the bar after they left the bathroom when one of the suspects kept groping her. The woman also said the two women wouldn’t stop touching her after being asked twice by a bartender who had noticed what was happening.
“One of the girls was still touching like all over me and she would not let go,” the woman told the dispatcher. “I told her numerous times and she [the bartender] could see I was visibly uncomfortable. She asked the girl two times to stop. The girl didn’t stop the two times at first so she had to forcefully tell the girl to stop.”
Witnesses of the assault told WRAL that it was clear the women were targeting her because she is transgender.
In 2016, North Carolina passed a controversial law that required people to use public restrooms associated with the gender they were assigned at birth, regardless of their gender identity. The law was rescinded in 2017 after public outcry.
“Transgender people in North Carolina continue to be targeted and policed in public spaces largely due to a political climate that is increasingly hostile towards marginalized individuals,” Kendra Johnson, the executive director of Equality NC, an LGBT advocacy group, told BuzzFeed News. “When incidents of violence happen, trans people often don’t get the support they need — or flat out aren’t believed.”
Harrell was previously arrested for assault on a female in April 2018 in Holly Springs, North Carolina, according to police records.
Harrell was reportedly released from jail Tuesday on a $50,000 bond, Fowler on a $30,000 bond.
WRAL reported that if the women are convicted, they will have to register as sex offenders.