Sexual Assault

Conservatives Wrongly Portrayed the Loudoun County Sexual Assault as a Transgender Bathroom Issue

The perpetrator did not target a random student, and he did not choose the girls bathroom because of his gender identity.


In June, a male student in a skirt reportedly assaulted a female classmate in a public school bathroom in Loudoun County, Virginia. It was a story that appeared to confirm the conservative media's worst fears about how predatory men could theoretically take advantage of accommodations for transgender people in order to harm young girls, and it touched off a wave of protests—with the victim's father, Scott Smith, at the center of them.

But it was substantially misreported in order to fit a conservative social agenda. Anyone on the right who makes a habit of complaining—often justifiably—about the mainstream media gullibly succumbing to viral stories that fit their priors ought to denounce this as well.

Smith, the father, was arrested for loudly protesting at a school board meeting on June 22. Cops bloodied him, placed him in handcuffs, and charged him with obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. When it later emerged that Smith was angry with district officials because he thought they weren't doing anything about his daughter's rape, he became a conservative folk hero, and was interviewed repeatedly by right-leaning media. The Daily Wire led the charge, seizing on an opportunity to embarrass both the mainstream media and the federal government for portraying hostile parents as akin to "domestic terrorists."

The Daily Wire's interview with Smith portrayed the idea that the daughter's assailant was "gender fluid" as central to the story. The implicit idea is that the perpetrator wore a skirt in order to gain access to the women's bathroom at Stone Bridge High School and carry out the attack. Over the summer, Loudoun County approved a new policy making it easier for transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice, and thus a connection was established between this policy and what happened to Smith's daughter.

That policy wasn't actually implemented until August, it turns out. But even if the school had begun enforcing it before that, there's no reason to think the assailant's actions had anything to do with accommodations for trans people.

That's because the assailant and the victim had a relationship, and had met in the bathroom for sexual activity previously. According to The Washington Post:

On Monday, the teenage victim of the Stone Bridge assault testified that she and her attacker had agreed to meet up in a school bathroom around 12:15 p.m. on the date of the assault. She testified they had not explicitly discussed having sex beforehand.

The teen testified she arrived first and chose to go in the girls' bathroom because the two had always met in the girls' bathrooms in the past. When the boy arrived, the teen testified, he came into the handicapped stall she was in and locked the door.

The two talked, before the girl testified the boy began grabbing her neck and other parts of her body in a sexual manner. She testified she told her attacker she was not in the mood for sex, but he forced himself on her.

"He flipped me over," the girl testified. "I was on the ground and couldn't move and he sexually assaulted me."