Are children at risk of sexual abuse in public bathrooms?


Dear Stop It Now!,

We are about to enact the Equality Act, which will allow adult biological men but who are Transexuals to use women's restrooms. I am concerned about girls and teens being in harm's way when the bill is enacted. For years here in our city municipal buildings' restrooms, we were told that they were kept locked for our protection from "lurking predators". Now we are to be sharing the public restrooms with biological males. When I tried to do research on this subject, there were many many articles saying no children or teens have been molested or raped in restrooms. Which is it? Are children and women as safe as they say in our public restrooms? Frankly, I don't believe that girls and teens are completely safe in public restrooms. The Proponents of the Equality Act are saying there is "nothing to fear"! Thank you in advance for answering my question.

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Dear Concerned Member of the Community,

I'm glad you're asking these questions and that you've found us on your search to get more information. Education is such a vital step in preventing abuse.

It makes sense that you want the facts as you are worried that allowing transgender individuals to access the bathroom of their identified gender (rather than the sex they were assigned at birth) may create a risk for children. We agree with the experts, research and through our own experience that allowing individuals to access bathrooms that match their own gender identify does not increase the risk of child sexual abuse. 

You may want to take a look at this press release from our Director (that was co-signed by many child sexual abuse prevention experts in the field) called North Carolina's "Bathroom" Bill Is Not Sexual Abuse Prevention. It states that in over 9 out of 10 child sexual abuse cases, the person who is abusing a child is someone known to the family – and not a stranger. Overwhelmingly, sexual abuse happens with people children know and trust – family friends, relatives, older children, siblings, and even youth and faith leaders. In fact, transgender people are much more likely to be the victims of abuse and sexual assault than the perpetrators.

It may also help to know that the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ article on the Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim and Offender Characteristics states that “Most (70%) of the sexual assaults reported to law enforcement occurred in the residence of the victim, the offender, or the residence of another individual.” And “The most common non-resident locations for sexual assaults of juveniles were roadways, fields/woods, schools, and hotels/motels.” 

Children and youth just are not more at risk in restrooms than in other places, as some opponents of bills like this one proclaim. Unfortunately, the sexual abuse of children can happen anywhere, and our press release goes on to say that “When myths based on fear and misconceptions are presented to the public to change laws, then the public – including all those adults who want to do everything they can to protect a child – is misinformed and becomes less of a protecting force. When you are looking in the wrong places for risks to a child, you miss the opportunities to actually strengthen the protective factors necessary to prevent sex abuse.” 

If you’re looking to get the conversation started with your community about prevention, I encourage you to take a look at some of our resources that can help caring adults proactively plan for safety. We can prepare for childrens' sexual wellbeing, including creating safe environments and having conversations with other adults about prevention as a way to help children grow up supported, healthy, and free from the effects of abuse.

Thank you again for taking the step to learn more. This is how we can work together to keep children safe.

Take care,
Stop It Now!


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Last edited on: November 26th, 2019