Take Action: Trans woman assaulted in Mecklenburg County Jail

According to recent news and community reports, a transgender woman in Charlotte was sexually assaulted by a detention center officer at the Mecklenburg County Jail. The woman, Heaven Gilliland, was assaulted on May 20 while being held in a men’s facility. The alleged perpetrator, Kyle Harris, has been arrested and charged with three counts of second degree sexual offense, one count of attempted second degree sexual offense, two counts of battery, and one count of a sexual act by a government employee. Harris was later released on bond.

You can read more about the incident via the Charlotte Observer.

After reporting the assault against her, Heaven was transferred from Mecklenburg County to the Gaston County Jail and was ultimately released from detention. But now, in what community advocates are saying is an act of intimidation and retaliation, Heaven was re-arrested — first being held in Iredell County and eventually moved to Rowan County. She is being held without bond, while her alleged assailant was released from custody.

Heaven’s experiences here in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and elsewhere are just one example of a dire system of harassment, violence, and assault experienced by transgender people at the hands of law enforcement and in jails and detention centers.

According to the U.S. Trans Survey:

  • 58% of trans people experienced some form of mistreatment by police
  • 23% of trans people experienced physical assault by jail or prison staff or other inmates
  • 20% of trans people are sexuality assaulted in jails or prisons
  • Moreover, trans people are five times more likely to be assaulted by jail staff and over nine times more likely to be sexually assaulted by other inmates

Charlotte Pride is calling for the immediate release of Heaven into the safety and care of her friends and family — and out of the unsafe, dangerous, and violent situation she currently faces while incarcerated. Charlotte Pride is also urging local law enforcement and prosecutors to immediately and diligently investigate this case and ensure the alleged perpetrator is held accountable for his violent crimes. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff and jail officials must also take immediate action steps to ensure community members held in their care are protected, including by properly housing community members in facilities which correspond with their gender identity.

Community members can take action too: