Louisiana police are reporting that in an unbelievably extreme and horrifying act of violence, three people in Natchitoches Parish spent years holding a trans woman hostage and enslaving her, as well as torturing and sexually assaulting her. The captive woman escaped from her torturers on May 31, and on June 4th, David Rodriguez, Jr; Christina Marie Harper; and Ambre Lomas were arrested on counts of human trafficking, kidnapping/false imprisonment, battery, and for Rodriguez and Harper, offenses against computer users.
Only the basic outline of what’s occurred is clear. The victim appears to have met her captors online “around two years ago,” moving from Minnesota to Louisiana to live with the married couple of Harper and Rodriguez in what started out as a willing living arrangement. Later, the couple became her captors, forcing her to perform labor and tattooing a barcode on her, a photo of which they later uploaded to the internet. When the victim explicitly begged to be released a few months ago, her captors chained her outdoors. She was eventually able to escape in her captors’ vehicle. Ambre Lomas seems to have been a friend of the couple, and is also being charged in the case.
The details of this woman’s experiences, even in the vague form of preliminary press releases, are truly unconscionable and unimaginable. After her escape, she was discovered by a town marshall near an interstate highway with a logging chain hanging from her neck. Nachitoches Parish Sheriff says that “In 30-something years of law enforcement in this area, this is probably one of the most gruesome deals that I’ve ever heard of, and I never experienced anything like it before.” In such a reprehensible case, it’s easy to agree that this case is an isolated one in its extremity — which is sort of true. The incidence of people held against their will, enslaved and tortured by a malicious conspiracy is low nationally. But the incidence of violence against trans women is incredibly high, and it’s likely not a coincidence that the victim in this case is trans. As the Louisiana Trans Advocates and Equality Louisiana stated:
“The deprivation of freedom and basic human dignity demonstrated in this case serve as a reminder that things like this happen in the cities and parishes of our state and are far too often ignored by the media and law enforcement. It is not uncommon for transgender women to be subjected to violence that results in their death. LGBT people, people of color, women and many other populations experience unacceptable treatment on a daily basis. This woman survived, while many women do not.”
Nachitoches’ criminal investigator and forensic examiner suggests that the victim may have been disowned by her family due to her trans status, and adds that “suspects prey on people in this situation.” Violent predators routinely target people that they feel they can get away with hurting without consequences — people whose wellbeing our communities don’t prioritize, people who our communities tend not to believe when they say they’ve been hurt. While Harper, Rodriguez and Lomas are responsible for their cruel and abominable torture of a trans woman who seems to have at one point trusted them. But as a culture, we’re collectively responsible for devaluing trans women’s lives so much that predators feel comfortable targeting them, including many predators and many crimes more pedestrian than those that these three committed. This isn’t an isolated incident — not really, and we can’t talk about it without talking about the long history of violence against trans women it fits into.
all images courtesy of the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Department
I’m kinda scared even to click on the links… Super glad she managed to get away! Far too many don’t. :(
I was shuddering while reading this.
Your reporting on this is very irresponsible. I can’t believe you’re pinning this on transphobia alone when there are thousands of cases of domestic workers ending up enslaved by their abusive employers every year. The vast majority of those workers are immigrants and I’m guessing everyone is treating this like an exceptional case because the woman in question is an American.
I have to agree. First and foremost, she is a human being. Yes she is a trans woman but in this moment, this horrendous experience she went through goes well beyond talks of her being a trans woman (or whatever nationality she might be, or that she’s a woman, in general) this is about a person being enslaved for 2 years.
^ ffs i even agree – this has absolutely nothing to do with trans women specific hate, and everything to do with the human nature basic of preying on the vulnerable and alone.
But to sour things up, backstab and twist the dagger, just for the sake of not being on the same side: read carefully, no sexual violence charges. Congrats with the victory on the impossibility of rape, people – and everyone can work out whether i mean them personally by that or not. It’s not, like, difficult, it only has to do with things you personally believe in.
But she’s not attributing it to transphobia alone. Rachel explicitly says that there are a lot of factors at play here — misogyny, classism and, yes, the shockingly high rate of violence against trans women in this country.
“Violent predators routinely target people that they feel they can get away with hurting without consequences — people whose wellbeing our communities don’t prioritize, people who our communities tend not to believe when they say they’ve been hurt.”
^^ exactly that. There is, without a doubt, a culturally reinforced idea that trans women’s lives are less valuable than cis women’s, and we can’t pretend it didn’t play some role here, even if it’s not the only issue.
Crimes like this happen when there are groups of “throwaway” people who are given zero value in this society. I would place both poor immigrant women and trans women under this category (and there is overlap between those two groups… as with some of what’s happening in the INS facilities). I think Andreea’s comment about immigrant and undocumented women was absolutely fair but I didn’t hear Rachel saying this only happens to trans women or that it’s uniquely a trans issue—just that trans women often fall into this “valueless” category within society which makes crimes against them all too easy.
In some respects I agree with Andreea, but I understand that this being a website specifically for LGTQA persons that the reporting that you did comes from that perspective. Yet, I think the issue is not that she’s trans but that violence against women is allowed let alone to go this far. I’m sure this report was just highlighting the fact that it was a trans person as victim. I disagree with Andreea in the statement that this is “Transphobia”. I didn’t read that in the article or I may have missed it. I think she was trying to express that minorities especially those abandoned by family or runaways are just that: runaways. It’s not the issue of targeting trans person, more the targeting of ANY vulnerable person including as, Andreea stated, immigrant workers.
I agree with Andreea in that my gut reaction to this coverage was, too, that it didn’t feel like responsible reporting. This is tagged in news and politics, but the coverage is not news reporting. There are not only several grammatical mistakes and misleading sentences (this absolutely does contribute to the clarity and success of an article), but also several statements that are culturally sweeping and do not do any justice for the larger context of this horrific act of violence. There is a way to make it clear that this trans* woman’s experience of violence is not isolated in that violence against trans* women is institutionalized, while also making mention that this experience is tied deeply to the experience of MANY undocumented women and children who are sold into and held in deeply violent situations like this.
This experience of being held captive, exploited for labor and violently abused is not a common one for trans* women who are American citizens. Saying that “this isn’t an isolated incident–not really” is misleading. This is all too common an experience for women and children who are undocumented, domestic workers. This is not splitting hairs. This is giving voice to those women who are denied not only news coverage, but everyday justice and human rights.
When does any household ever need that many firearms? Holy hell.