What You Need to Know about Transgender Students & Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault on Transgender Students

Posted on 17 March 2016 |

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Campus Climate Survey Reports on Transgender Students

transgender lgbtqia studentsThe Association of American Universities’(AAU) campus climate survey—focused on nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence across 27 higher education campuses—found that rates of sexual assault and misconduct are highest among undergraduate females and those who identify as transgender, gender-queer, non-conforming, questioning and or something not listed on the survey (TGQN).

The results are not surprising, as this information has been reported before. However, according to the researchers, this survey is one of the first to provide statistically reliable estimates for TGQN students.

Nancy Deutsch, an associate professor at the University of Virginia who was on the team that helped create the AAU survey, told FiveThirtyEight,“We’re absolutely already using the results of the report to think about how to inform our policies, procedures and educational outreach regarding sexual misconduct.”

Transgender Students Face Higher Rates of Sexual Assault and Harassment

Specifically, the survey revealed many things including that TGQN students experienced the highest rates of sexual assault involving penetration by force or incapacitation: 12.4 percent for undergraduates and 8.3 percent for graduate/professional students.

Additionally, students identifying as TGQN are most likely to be victims of sexual harassment. For example, 75.2 percent of undergraduate and 69.4 percent of graduate/professional students who identify as TGQN reported being sexually harassed.

“There were areas where TGQN students seemed to have potentially higher rates of experiences with sexual misconduct, so we’ll do more outreach and work with the LGBTQ Center to address that and provide more outreach,” stated Deutsch.

What are Campuses Doing to Create Transgender-Inclusive Policies?

And many campuses are stepping up and changing their policies to be more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA friendly). Some of these changes include:

  • Diversity training for faculty and staff
  • Services and outreach programs
  • Facilities that are open to all people
  • Classes that focus on LGBTQIA issues

Even though progress has been made for the LGBTQIA population on campus, some people feel the transgender community has been left out.

For example, Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told InsideHigherEd, “There is not the same level of awareness and education [for transgender students] as there is for gay, lesbian and bisexual students, so there’s not much work being done to improve the climate. Nobody is really looking at what’s going on.”

On the other hand, there are some campuses making significant efforts to become more inclusive to transgender students, and other higher education institutions are following suit to create policies at their campuses. These include:

  • Accommodating housing requests
  • Expanding gender options on applications
  • Developing policies for sports participation
  • Adding gender neutral restrooms

Beyond simply creating policies, it’s important as part of a sexual assault and harassment prevention strategy to provide additional training to faculty and staff on how to respectfully interact with and treat transgender students.

Training for Faculty and Staff to Help Support Transgender Students

Faculty, staff and administrators interact with transgender students every day. And as authority figures on campus, other students look up to them and will model their behavior after them. That’s why it’s important to provide faculty and staff with training that helps them be supportive and speak with respect toward the transgender community on campus.

Additionally, student affairs professionals, Title IX coordinators and others who interact with students that have been sexually assaulted need training. Since LGBTQIA students are less likely to report sexual assault, it’s important that when they do, there are supportive people on campus they can talk to.


Campus climate survey results show that higher education institutions need to offer more support to LGBTQIA students, specifically transgender students, to help prevent sexual assault and harassment. The good news is that many campuses are paving the way and already creating these policies and implementing prevention strategies.

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