Know Your Rights
Making post-crime decisions
June 1, 2017
It’s hard to know what to do after experiencing a traumatic crime. Trans and non-binary people, especially, may hesitate to take some steps for many reasons, including fears of encountering transphobia, being disbelieved, getting outed, being perceived as “weak,” and hurting the trans/non-binary community by exposing the fact we also have abusers and predators. This article briefly discusses some major options, and steps you can take to increase the chances that your reach for help will be successful.
Take care of yourself. Traumatic crime strips a victim of their sense of control and safety. Therefore, your first priority should be trying to restore to the extent you can your sense of being in control of your life. Try not to let others push you in directions that do not feel right to you.
Consider accessing health care. Although early medical care for injuries or to check for internal injuries may even be life-saving, more frequently it prevents medical problems from worsening. Seeing a health care provider can also rule out other problems which may otherwise cause you significant distress, such as pregnancy, sexually-transmitted infections, and HIV. If you do not have your own physician, consider seeking care from one of those on FORGE’s trans-friendly SE Wisconsin providers’ list. If your only concerns are related to sexually-transmitted infections, consider going to an LGBT-friendly agency such as the BestD Clinic (http://www.bestd.org/) for testing. If you do access medical care, if possible, bring someone with you who can take notes, ask questions, clarify your choices and their possible consequences, and advocate for you if necessary. This person does not need to be a trained advocate (a level-headed friend or family member is fine), but trained advocates willing to accompany you to health care providers are available through the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s Anti-Violence Program (http://www.mkelgbt.org/programs/anti-violence-counseling/, see below).
Reporting to police. Many trans and non-binary people do not want to interact with law enforcement personnel due to fears of being mistreated. This is completely understandable. At the same time, a key resource for crime victims — victims’ compensation — is *only* available to you if you report a crime to law enforcement within five days. The other primary reason people do report to law enforcement is the hope that if the perpetrator is caught, convicted, and imprisoned, they will have far fewer chances to hurt other people, including other trans/non-binary people, and that may help them feel that justice has been done.
To increase your chances of getting the response you want from law enforcement, consider requesting that a crime victim advocate accompany you when you talk to police. The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s Anti-Violence Program (http://www.mkelgbt.org/programs/anti-violence-counseling/, see below) may be able to provide an advocate.
Reporting to the Anti-Violence Program (http://www.mkelgbt.org/programs/anti-violence-counseling/). The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s Anti-Violence Program (AVP) is part of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which confidentially collects and analyzes data on domestic violence, sexual assault, and hate crimes within the LGBT community. This data (just the numbers, not personal identity information) is compiled and disseminated nationally, and serves as the basis of numerous advocacy efforts to reduce crime against LGBT people and increase the quality of services available to LGBT victims of crime. Even if you don’t want to report your crime to law enforcement, consider reporting it to the Milwaukee LGBT AVP. The process of reporting may help you feel less alone and may help the overall LGBT community better protect itself.
Emergency shelter. If the person(s) who hurt you knows where you live and/or the crime took place in your home, you may want to consider staying somewhere else for awhile. If a domestic violence shelter receives funding through the Violence Against Women Act, they are now required to serve both trans and non-binary people. You can locate a domestic violence shelter here: http://www.thehotline.org/ or by calling 1-800-799-7233. There are now also trans protections for people accessing Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-funded emergency shelters. To find an emergency shelter, go to http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/. For the longer term, Wisconsin now has a Safe at Home program (https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/safe-home) that can help keep a new address out of public records if you relocate. FORGE can help you sign up for that.
Compensation. Wisconsin’s Crime Victim Compensation fund reimburses certain crime victims up to $40,000 for medical costs (including mental health counseling), lost wages, and replacement of broken locks or clothing kept for evidence. Note that you must have filed a police report within 5 days of the crime to be eligible. For more details, see https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/compensation/crime-victim-compensation-program-compensation-your-financial-losses.
Legal help. If you know your abuser, you may be able to obtain a court order that warns your abuser that coming near you will be another crime. In Wisconsin, these are called restraining or protective orders, and they are available to people who have lived together or been in a dating relationship, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Information on obtaining restraining orders in Wisconsin is available at https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/victim-rights/restraining-orders.
Medications. Few violent crime survivors sail through the first weeks and months without major emotional or physical challenges. Many individuals self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. These may not be the best responses, since they may increase your risk of being re-victimized, becoming addicted, or encountering legal problems. Under a competent physician’s care, however, short-term courses of medications to help you sleep (which is critical to physical and emotional recovery), reduce your anxiety or depression, and even help lower incidents of flashbacks or other post-traumatic stress symptoms may be quite helpful. Just remember medication isn’t a cure-all: keep improving your emotional regulation and stress reduction skills. For more self-help techniques, check out “Self-help Techniques and Concepts” in FORGE’s Self-help Guide
Psychotherapy. Some of the things a skilled therapist can help you with include: sorting through what you are and aren’t responsible for; addressing any shame or guilt you may feel; improving relationships that are struggling because of post-crime reactions; and improving the quality of your life. Just remember that it may take several attempts to find a therapist who “fits” you. FORGE has two resources to help here: Let’s Talk About It: A Transgender Survivor’s Guide to Accessing Therapy and a directory of trans-friendly SE Wisconsin mental health providers.
Alternative therapies. Alternative therapies can include herbal remedies and other over-the-counter healing agents like Bach’s Flower Remedies; massage and other types of bodywork; Reiki and other types of energywork; prayer; and many others. If you have found any of these methods useful in the past, consider using them again.
Peer, internet, or group support. If you are in recovery, returning to or stepping up your visits to AA, NA, or other 12-step groups may help keep you from backsliding during this tough period. If you belong to a religious or spiritual group, try to regularly attend services or meetings, and/or meet with your spiritual counselor. Connecting with other crime victims – in person or via electronics – can be very healing. It can be reassuring to talk to those further along in their healing process (yes, people do heal), and seeing someone else do it may help you counter any of your own self-blaming, guilt, and other self-harming thoughts or habits. Group work can also help you develop alternative ways of seeing what happened, help you put the past into contexts you can more easily live with, and help stave off isolation and depression. FORGE has both a Facebook page for trans survivors (https://www.facebook.com/transsurvivors/) and an interactive website (http://trans-survivors.com/) to help you connect both with people and other resources.
The links again:
Trans-friendly, SE WI physicians: https://forge-wi.org/providers/physicians/
BestD Clinic (STI clinic): http://www.bestd.org/
Milwaukee LGBT Community Center Anti-Violence Program: http://www.mkelgbt.org/programs/anti-violence-counseling/
National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/ 1-800-799-7233
National Emergency Shelter Directory: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/
Wisconsin Crime Victim Compensation: https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/compensation/crime-victim-compensation-program-compensation-your-financial-losses
Wisconsin Safe at Home program: https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/safe-home
Wisconsin Restraining Orders: https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/victim-rights/restraining-orders
“Trans Sexual Violence Survivors: A Self-Help Guide to Healing and Understanding:” http://forge-forward.org/wp-content/docs/self-help-guide-to-healing-2015-FINAL.pdf
“Let’s Talk About It: A Transgender Survivor’s Guide to Accessing Therapy:” http://forge-forward.org/wp-content/docs/Lets-Talk-Therapist-Guide.pdf
Trans-friendly SE Wisconsin mental health therapists: https://forge-wi.org/providers/mental-health-providers/
FORGE Facebook page for trans survivors:
FORGE website/blog for trans survivors: