Two cisgender women in North Carolina have been charged with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping after groping a trans woman in the bathroom of a Raleigh bar.

Jessica Fowler, 31, and Amber Harrell, 38, were charged after turning themselves in earlier this week, WRAL reported.

The alleged incident took place at Milk Bar in December when the victim, Kai, went to the bathroom to adjust her hair and make-up.

Kai said that Fowler and Harrell started groping her and exposing themselves

“It became a very uncomfortable situation, something I just did not expect to happen. It was just a very, very scary, very claustrophobic, traumatic situation that happened, just being groped and taken advantage of.”

She says the two women then followed her out of the bathroom back to the bar and continued to harass her, with the bartender having to step in to tell them to stop.

Kai said she returned to the bathroom after the alleged assault, where she says she suffered a panic attack.

She said she initially did not want to report the incident to police as she worried they would not take a trans woman seriously.

“I did not want this to be a situation where I was basically sweeping this under the rug.

“It felt hateful. It felt like you’re different from us and we want to make fun of the fact that you’re different from us,” she said.

“I feel degraded. I feel confused. I feel hurt. The lewd comments and lewd actions that were said and done, I just felt like I was a target.”

But she said she does not blame the venue, nor wish the two women to be subject to retaliation – she simply wants an apology, to start.

Kai said she had never felt unsafe in a women’s bathroom before, but now fears a repeat incident.

“Now, when I go into a restroom and women are friendly to me, I tense up and go, ‘Is this part two? Am I being targeted?'”

Harrell was released after posting $50,000 bail, while Fowler has been placed in detention under a $30,000 bond, with the pair due to face court later this month.

North Carolina has been at the centre of the US trans rights battle since 2016 when former governor Pat McCrory introduced laws which forced trans people to use public bathrooms that matched the gender on their birth certificate.

The laws were repealed last year after significant public backlash and economic pressure, but only in part.

Netflix recently announced that it would not film an upcoming series in the state due to the lingering effects of the laws, which prevents municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances against any group not protected by state law, which includes LGBTI people, until 2020.

The series’ creator was pushing for the show to be filmed in his home state but said that the law “is costing this town 70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs and also sending a message to those people who can bring these jobs and more that North Carolina still doesn’t get it.”

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