EDITOR NOTE: In response to news of Christopher Hambrook raping and sexually assaulting Women at women’s shelters in Toronto, we were contacted by a woman who was also sexually assaulted by a “transgender woman” at the Bethlehem United Shelter, a joint project of Fred Victor, Bethlehem United Church (Apostolic) and the City of Toronto. We publish her account below.
I was 27 years old when the years of abuse I suffered at the hands of both my parents and the foster care system became too much for my body to take. Multiple brain injuries, broken bones and a shattered heart my body gave out, my blood pressure crashed and I almost died. My best friend and sole caregiver needing help turned to a local agency charged with providing care for the elderly, sick and disabled only to find them working with my abusers to have me forced into a nursing home so we fled our home and headed downtown in search of shelter, in search of safety.
It turns out finding shelter is really difficult when you need a wheelchair to get around and even more difficult when your caregiver is a friend and not a spouse. After months of sleeping outside, exhausted, cold, hungry and longing for a bed we lied our way into a family shelter by saying we were a couple. This shelter apparently did take in single people because there were a few so I am unsure why they gave us such a hassle but it didn’t matter because we were in, we were warm, we were together and we were safe, or so we thought.
One of the single people in the shelter was a transgender person who the staff assured me posed no risk because he was a women. He had long blonde hair, breasts, wore skirts and dresses, make up and went by female names, yes he changed his name multiple times. He was also a prostitute and a drug addict which the shelter condones but since my friend and I were not there to make friends we really didn’t care, we minded our own and just stuck together.
One warm afternoon we were outside the front of the shelter having a smoke when this man in women’s clothing approached us. High on drugs he started yelling at me about another women in the shelter. My friend tried to calm him down but there was no calming him down. He threw his lit cigarette at me, pulled my hair, spit on me, hit me repeatedly and then shoved his penis in my face. I was trapped in my wheelchair while my friend was on the phone with 911 and trying her best to keep this man off of me. I was hysterical and 911 was a joke, they kept telling my friend to tell me to move away from the man, to go into the shelter and my friend kept telling them I couldn’t. I was powerless, I felt helpless, it seemed like a nightmare.
When the shelter staff told me this man was a women and explained to me “how it works” I believed them. I did not see this man as a threat I viewed him like I would any other women. When 911 said they were sending police the man took of into the shelter. It turns out as a regular to this shelter he knew that the shelter has a policy where they will not tell police who is staying there, they will neither confirm nor deny. The police couldn’t do a thing.
A couple days later we were informed by a transgender shelter staff that I could either go to a nursing home or we could leave so we left and headed back downtown to sleep on the streets. Six months later we did find shelter and we did find safety, we landed a great wheelchair accessible apartment, got our cats back and brought home a puppy but to this day I am still haunted by the man in women’s clothing towering over me with his penis in my face.