PORTLAND — The attack broke Lauren Jackson’s bones but not her spirit.
“Thankfully, I’m still alive. Thankfully, the injuries weren’t worse,” she told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Jackson, a transgender woman, was severely beaten by a man she didn’t know after using a woman’s bathroom at an Oregon coast park near Newport, Oregon, late last month, police and prosecutors allege. Jackson was visiting Oregon for the first time.
The assailant’s blows shattered her jaw in multiple places and fractured her skull, according to the woman and police.
She spent the next week in the hospital.
Seth Costanza, 37, an unemployed Idaho resident, is accused of a felony hate crime. He was arraigned Monday in Lincoln County Circuit Court on charges of first-degree intimidation, second-degree assault, menacing and harassment.
Jackson, 29, said she is healing and flourishing.
“I’m in the best place in my life, even after this attack,” she said. “I’m happier, more peaceful and loving life more than ever before.”
“Because I’m just me. I haven’t always been.”
Jackson had lived up until last year as a man, she said. She had been married to a woman in Salt Lake City. She had a career in the music industry.
But Jackson said she never felt comfortable or whole until she came out as transgender. Her intuition later told her to seek a fresh start in the Pacific Northwest, a place she had never visited.
Jackson took her first estrogen pills the day she packed her car and left Utah several weeks ago. Her travels took her to Eugene, Oregon, briefly and then over to the coast.
“It was a crazy adventure,” she said. “I had just started transitioning. Everything was brand new.”
She had been in Oregon only 10 days when she found herself at Agate Beach State Recreation Site on Aug. 24.
The morning began with meditation, yoga and a bathroom break at the park’s public restroom, Jackson said. She went to the grocery store and returned to make breakfast by the beach.
Nearly an hour after using the women’s restroom, Jackson said she saw Costanza approaching her from across the park. Enraged, he started screaming at her.
“He kept saying, ‘Oh, you think you’re some kind of lady?'” Jackson said. “Suddenly, he punched my face. He grabbed my hair.”
Witnesses told police Costanza struck Jackson more than 10 times before leaving the park with his wife. Jackson was rushed to the hospital.
An officer at the scene reported finding large amounts of blood on the ground, court records show. Costanza returned later that day to the beach and was arrested.
Mitchell Martin, listed in records as a court-appointed attorney for Costanza, did not return a phone call and email seeking comment Thursday. His wife declined to comment.
Jackson said she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she’s received since the attack. Emails and phone calls have poured in from around the country. Members of Oregon’s LGBTQ community have reached out and welcomed her arrival.
Jackson is now staying at a short-term rental outside of Portland and looking for a permanent home, she said.
“I’ll continue trying to build the life I see for myself around what I’ve been given,” she said.
Costanza remains in the Lincoln County jail on $250,000 bail.
Jackson said she holds little resentment toward her suspected attacker.
“I don’t want to hate this guy. He’s also searching for something,” Jackson said. “I hope that he can walk away from a situation like this and maybe make shifts in his life as well. But that’s up to him.”