A Transgender Woman Assaulted a Child in a Restroom; New Laws Wouldn't Have Stopped It, and None Were Needed to Lock Her Up

Will the panic fizzle out when people realize the criminal justice system is adequately prepared to deal with actual sex crimes?


Casper Police booking photo

An apparently transgender woman in Wyoming has been convicted of molesting a 10-year-old girl in a bathroom. Casper resident Michelle Martinez—whose legal name is still Miguel Alberto Martinez, so she went on trial under that name—was convicted of two charges of sexual abuse of a child and faces up to 70 years in prison.

According to the Casper Star Tribune, Martinez knew the victim and lured her into a bathroom to assault her. Nurses examined the girl after the assault and found medical evidence of the attack. Martinez and her family maintain her innocence and plan to appeal.

So now we have an actual case of a transgender woman assaulting a little girl in a bathroom. So does that mean the right-wing culture warriors were right to worry about the trans infiltration of American ladies' rooms? Not if you look at the particulars of the case.

First of all, this wasn't a stranger lurking in a public bathroom looking to prey on a random child. As is often the case when children are molested, the victim knew her attacker, and the restroom in question was in somebody's home. This crime, as serious and awful it is, sharply diverges from the bathroom-panic narrative of the stalker in a restroom laying in wait for prey. No law gender-policing bathroom use would have meant anything in this case.

Second, existing law on the abuse of children is clearly adequate to tackle this sort of situation. If Martinez gets the maximum penalty, she's clearly not going to be in a position ever to attack another child. What would an additional law restricting restroom access have accomplished here?

Think of the demands for more gun control that frequently come in the wake of a high-profile shooting. When gun foes propose new restrictions that would not have done anything to prevent the crime in question, people who actually understand firearms and the laws that regulate them are quick to point out (accurately!) that such laws would not have stopped the shooting, and to list the consequences a poorly-thought-out gun law would have for law-abiding citizens.

The same logical consideration applies here. There's no evidence that yet another law would have prevented this assault from happening. There's no evidence that existing law is unable to deal with the extremely rare cases when a transgender sexual assault of children does happen. No changes in the law are necessary.