Last week, Kelly Herron was on a long run when she stopped to use the bathroom in a Seattle park and was attacked by a man hiding in a stall. She fought him off, screaming “Not today, motherfucker!”, and shared her story on social media with a very specific goal.
“After my assault, I came out with my story about fighting back,” she said in an email. “I didn’t want other women to be fearful and not continue to do the things that make them happy, like running!”
Herron’s Instagram post, which now has 38,000 likes, included a picture of the park, a screenshot from her fitness tracker during the moments she battled her attacker and an image of her battered face.
While Herron set out with clear intentions, a group called Just Want Privacy quickly used her experience to make a political point about prohibiting transgender people from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Her attacker, however, was not transgender.
That didn’t sit right with Herron, and she knew exactly what to say: “not today, motherfuckers.”
That’s how she replied on Thursday in a fundraising email that opposed Just Want Privacy’s efforts to repeal Washington’s non-discrimination laws and allow public facilities to keep trans people from using the restroom that reflects their identity.
“I’m more upset now than I have been all week after seeing that a political group is using my face, my name and my story to fundraise for I-1552, a ballot initiative that deliberately targets and harms transgender people—including friends whom I respect,” Herron wrote. “I refuse to allow anyone to use me and my horrific sexual assault to cause harm and discrimination to others.”
On Tuesday, Just Want Privacy posted a statement on its Facebook page acknowledging its use of Herron’s story.
“Since many of the volunteers that comprise this campaign are themselves survivors of sexual assault, the last thing we want to do is make anyone feel exploited,” it said. “If our actions have inadvertently failed in this effort, we are sincerely sorry.”
Herron wasn’t convinced. She also felt it was essential to publicly reject the group’s proposal, which needs 330,000 signatures by July to make it onto the ballot. Just Want Privacy says that men are currently allowed to enter locker rooms and bathrooms, and may assault girls and women, who aren’t permitted to question their presence. The law, however, focuses on ensuring access to public facilities and preventing harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“My transgender friends, just like me, want to use the bathroom and get out safely. It’s that simple,” Herron said in an email. “[R]epealing non-discrimination protections for transgender people won’t make any of us safer, and it may make things worse by encouraging more harassment.”
Herron’s harrowing story is a also good reminder to never use a woman’s story of sexual assault for your own political gain.