Two Cis Women Sexually Assault Trans Woman in Public Bathroom

Two cisgender women sexually assaulted a transgender woman in a North Carolina public restroom. The cisgender women, Jessica Fowler and Amber Harrell, were arrested for sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping. According to reports, the sexual assault happened at Milk Bar on December 9th, 2018 and the two were charged and arrested.

According to the call reporting the crime to the police, the two cisgender women forced the victim against the wall of the bathroom and sexually assaulted her. As the victim was attempting to leave the restroom, the two cisgender women continued to assault the transgender woman in front on the bartender who attempted to stop the cisgender women’s attack.

Amber Nicole Harrell is charged with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping. Harrell’s criminal history reports that she was previously charged with assault in April 2018. Harrell’s accomplice, Jessica Fowler, was likewise charged with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping. Records indicate that both were released from custody after posting bail.

The transgender victim reported that she had been raped a year ago, compounding the stress of the assault.

Listen to an excerpt of the call to police here:

NOTE: The above recording was digitally altered to protect the victim’s identity. 

North Carolina sparked controversy after passing the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” better known as HB2. The bill stripped local LGBTQI equality protections and compelled transgender and intersex people to only use restrooms corresponding with the sex assigned to them on their medical record of birth. HB2, and others like it, were modeled after the successful right-wing movement to repeal LGBTQI protections in Houston, Texas by claiming that equality means that “men” (ie, transgender/intersex women and/or sexual predators) could hang around the women’s restroom. The evangelical right-wing in Houston produced a how-to instructional documentary for repealing LGBTQI equality, using Jim Crow-era rhetoric, asserting that equality results in sexual assault. The “no men in women’s restrooms” movement was exported to other locations throughout the U.S.

However, those most affected by so-called “bathroom bills” were cisgender women who were deemed gender nonconforming and after enduring years of anti-trans hysteria, the recent crushing defeat of these bills, coupled with the 2018 “Blue Wave,” the Republican appetite to engage in anti-trans fearmongering has waned. Texas Governor announced that he had no desire to once again take up bathroom bills, the Lieutenant Governor –the man who most heavily championed bathroom bills in the past– just told the press that such bills “won’t be back,” and even the hate groups pushing these bills in the past publicly admitted that their entire bathroom campaign was “contrived.”

The rallying cry of the pro-family groups trying to repeal the law was the well-known “bathroom safety” argument – that in addition to transgenders, this law allows male sexual predators to lurk in women’s restrooms to prey on girls and women. This was technically true, but was largely contrived. – Mass Resistance, SPLC Hate Group

Even so, a UK TERF group is attempting to once again spark off another wave of “bathroom bill” hysteria with an organizing meeting announced for late January in Washington, DC.


Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of underserved communities. She started the first trans homeless shelter in Texas and co-founded the first federally funded housing-first homeless program, pioneered affordable health care for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. She has published short stories, academic chapters and papers, and numerous articles for both print and digital magazines. She received numerous awards for her advocacy and has presented at universities throughout the nation, served on several governmental committees and CBO boards, is the Editor of the TransAdvocate, and is a founding board member of the Transgender Foundation of America and the Bee Busy Wellness Center.