Two North Carolina women have been charged with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping of a transgender woman in the bathroom of a North Carolina bar, Raleigh police said.
The altercation took place Dec. 9 at Milk Bar in downtown Raleigh, according to an offense report and 911 call made the next day. The caller, whose name was not released, reported that two women taunted, groped and exposed themselves to an unnamed victim in the bathroom.
It was not clear whether the call was made by the victim or someone who witnessed the alleged assault. The Associated Press reported that the victim was a 29-year-old transgender woman.
Amber Harrell, 38, and Jessica Fowler, 31, were arrested and charged with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping, according to the offense report. The caller said the two continued to assault the victim at the bar – despite the bartender’s repeated orders to stop. One of the women apparently asked the victim whether she had a penis.
Although the altercation reportedly began as a seemingly friendly conversation, the drastic turn of events caused the victim to have a panic attack in the bathroom, the caller reported.
WRAL reported that Harrell was arrested over the weekend and that Fowler turned herself in Tuesday afternoon. The two were released on bond, and it was not clear Wednesday whether they had lawyers.
In 2016, the North Carolina Legislature passed H.B. 2, more commonly known as the “bathroom bill,” which required people to use public restrooms that matched the sex on their birth certificate, instead of the gender they identify with – particularly affecting the transgender community.
The law was repealed in 2017 but was replaced by legislation that prevents local governments from passing measures that protect LGBT people – a replacement considered to be a compromise.
In a statement to WRAL, Bunch of Fives Hospitality, which owns Milk Bar, said it is working with police on the case.
“Bunch of 5s handles all matters that threaten our patrons in a timely fashion to ensure their safety and ability to enjoy themselves at all of our locations,” the statement says. “This matter was handled with cooperation and full transparency with the Raleigh Police Department and the detective that was assigned this case. Bunch of 5s and Milk Bar seek to continue to welcome all patrons into a safe environment.”