A transgender woman was sexually assaulted while sleeping at a Cleveland, Ohio homeless shelter.
The perpetrator was identified as Paris McCrary, 50, a convicted sex offender. McCrary has been charged with gross sexual imposition, which is a third degree felony.
The incident occurred at around 4:30 am on Monday, 21 May at the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry’s Men’s Shelter. Lutheran Metropolitan is Cleveland’s largest homeless shelter.
The unnamed trans woman, age 31, was sleeping at the shelter after being kicked out of the home she was staying at with her ex-girlfriend and daughter.
According to the woman, who spoke with cleveland.com, she only had two choices of shelters to stay at: this men’s shelter or Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, which allows transgender women.
However, Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, though trans-inclusive, has a history of being a poorly-run facility. This facility is the only county-funded homeless shelter for women. Back in March, the Norma Herr shelter switched management from Frontline Services to the Young Women’s Christian Association.
The trans woman chose not to stay here because she heard that transgender women were treated cruelly by other women at the shelter.
‘Women there are so cruel,’ she said. ‘They treat all transgender people, not with physical attacks, but verbal attacks. That’s why there’s so many transgender people at the [Lutheran Metropolitan] shelter. The men down there are generally more open. But then there’s the chance of physical attacks at that shelter.’
The woman claims she awoke in the shelter to McCrary sexually assaulting her. According to the police report, McCrary was seated on the edge of her bed with his pants around his ankles. He allegedly groped her groin and tried to rip off her fishnet stockings. When she woke up, she scared him away. He grabbed his pants and went back to his bed, where he pretended to be asleep.
After the incident, the woman alerted the shelter staff who called police. Police arrested and questioned McCrary.
This incident was scarring to the woman, who is afraid to go back to the shelter. She is currently looking for work and struggling to overcome the memories of the attack. She doesn’t feel the shelter did enough to protect her.
‘It was wrong, sick, disgusting,’ she said. ‘It was truly terrifying. Every time I pass a man on the street I’m scared.’
The shelter’s response
Jessica Starr, a spokesperson for the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry’s Men’s Shelter, said in a statement that safety is the shelter’s top priority. She claimed that monitors check the dorms every 15 minutes, and that the common areas are also monitored with surveillance cameras.
Starr also announced that McCrary was now banned from the shelter.
‘[Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry] is disheartened to hear of the allegations and we will continue to show our support for the resident who filed the report,’ Starr’s statement said. ‘Our social services agency is committed to supporting and being responsive to the needs of the LGBTQ community and regularly provide staff training to aid in the safety of our transgender residents.’
Who is McCrary?
McCrary has numerous felony convictions dating back to 1982. In the 1982 incident, he was convicted of raping and robbing a woman at gunpoint. He has also been convicted of crimes such as drug possession and failing to register as a sex offender.
This happens too often
According to the Office for Victims of Crime, 22% of homeless transgender people report being sexually assaulted at shelters. A 2015 survey by Trans Equality found that 47% of trans people report being sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
This isn’t limited to the United States. Recently, a trans woman in Australia was raped at both male and female prison facilities.