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The Roanoke County School Board seeks to pass model guidance (as issued by the Virginia Department of Education) on the treatment of transgender, nonbinary, agender, and any other non-cisgender students within their school district. The proposed policies enforce the use of students’ dead names and incorrect pronouns. Further, any gender-segregated space or activity will assign students based on their sex at birth, absent the submission of legal documentation of changed name or gender. SARA opposes these policies and submitted the following comment in support of their position:

Hello, my name is Bethny Barrett, and I am the Director of Education and Outreach for SARA Inc. I am writing on behalf of SARA to oppose the approval of the VDOE Model Policies Regarding Transgender Student Support.

SARA provides crisis and support services to survivors of sexual violence in Roanoke County. Additionally, we provide education on sexual violence, trauma, and consent. To that end, we feel it is important for the Board to better understand the dynamics of sexual violence, particularly for youth.

The oft-cited reason for the proposed policies is to protect the physical and sexual safety of children. But the proposed policies do the exact opposite. Voluminous research indicates that accepting and protecting a child’s gender and sexual identity improves their mental and physical health outcomes.[1]

Further, statistics do not support that LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to perpetrate sexual violence. Sadly, perpetrators of sexual violence, including against children, exist within all racial, sexual identity, gender identity, and socioeconomic categories.[2] No data indicates that LGBTQ+ individuals perpetrate sexual violence more often that heterosexual, cisgender people (in fact, the inverse is likely more accurate).[3] Research also suggests that biased officials and discriminatory legal schemes lead to disproportionately high arrests and convictions of LGBTQ+ people for sexual offenses.[4]

LGBTQ+ individuals are also significantly more likely to experience sexual violence (instead of perpetrate it) than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. LGBT people (16+) are nearly 4 times more likely to experience violent victimization, compared to non-LGBT people.[5] Approximately 1 in 8 lesbian women (13%), nearly half of bisexual women (46%), and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (17%) have been raped in their lifetime.[6] Nearly half (48 percent) of bisexual women who are rape survivors experienced their first rape between ages 11 and 17.[7] LGBQ+ students are four times as likely (than heterosexual and cisgender students) to experience forced sex.[8]

The myopic focus on LGBTQ+ individuals as sexual offenders can result in actual dangerous behaviors being ignored.[9] Grooming children for sexual violence cannot be predicted by gender or sexual identity.[10] Children are not protected from sexual violence by pretending that transgender individuals do not exist.

SARA urges the Board to make their decisions based on facts and to protect all children from sexual harm. Please reject the VDOE Model Policies Regarding Transgender Student Support.

[1] See https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1059840520970847#core-collateral-metrics; https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm#violence.

[2] See https://stopabusecampaign.org/2017/03/10/are-most-sex-abusers-heterosexual/.

[3] Id.

[4] See LGBTQ People on Sex Offender Registries in the US, UCLA School of Law Williams Institute, May 2022.

[5] https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/ncvs-lgbt-violence-press-release/.

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_sofindings.pdf.

[7] https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community.

[8] https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm#violence.

[9] https://www.politifact.com/article/2022/may/11/why-its-not-grooming-what-research-says-about-gend/.

[10] Id.