On August 5, Twitch streamer Clara ‘Keffals’ Sorrenti woke up to armed police raiding her home – which she says is the latest in a campaign of transphobic harassment she has experienced whilst streaming.
In a video posted to her YouTube channel (via PC Gamer), Sorrenti detailed a harrowing experience with London (Ontario, Canada) police, where they raided her home, armed, after “every city councilor in the city of Ontario” received an email stating that she possesses an illegal weapon, had killed her mother, and planned to go to City Hall and shoot “every cisgender person” in sight.
After being taken into custody, she claims the police took the email seriously despite it being “riddled with grammatical errors” and appearing more like “something a troll would say”. The email also stated her name, but referred to her as her “dead name” – the term for a transgender person’s birth name. She believes this was an attempt to make the police “humiliate” her.
Throughout the course of her “interrogation” by the police, Sorrenti said that the police referred to her as this dead name repeatedly, and when talking to her mother would refer to Sorrenti as her “son”.
“The fact that a fake email led to London police services booking me under my dead name reveals the prejudice that many police have towards transgender people,” Sorrenti said, before holding up a property bag clearly labelled “Roberts” which was her surname prior to legally changing it in 2012. Sorrenti took her mother’s maiden name upon changing it, meaning that her surname has not been Roberts in more than a decade.
Sorrenti then discussed a search warrant which she held in her hand, and stated that the police were looking for “a handgun, ammunition, cartridges, cleaning tools, a gun case, cellphones and computers.” She then revealed that electronics of hers were taken including both personal and work phones and the computer she uses to stream on her Twitch channel. Her fiancé’s phone, laptop and external hard drives were taken too.
Sorrenti claims that due to the “negligence” of the police, both her and her partner were left “functionally unemployed”, having to spend thousands to replace the seized electronics. The police released Sorrenti without charges, but without her devices she could not communicate the events to anyone close to her. She claims that some of her accounts are still inaccessible due to the police retaining the devices that receive her two-factor-authentication information.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to her either. Sorrenti goes on to detail an event from July 31 in Toronto, where someone impersonating her made threats to politicians. The Toronto police “chalked it up to a swatting attempt” and she was not charged nor named as a suspect in this investigation. Swatting is the act of executing a hoax emergency call or correspondence, usually with threats of extreme violence, with the intent to send the police or emergency services to an unsuspecting person’s address.
Swatting has become a problem for Twitch streamers as those responsible find pleasure in witnessing the events unfold live on stream. Streamer ImperialHal has been swatted three times whilst on air, with the most recent being just a few weeks ago (July 30). For Sorrenti, this wasn’t the reality, as they turned up whilst she was sleeping.
Sorrenti claims London police should have known that a swatting attempt was a possibility, as her brother phoned them in late March to see if her family could be put on a “no swatting” list, only to be treated as though they were “wearing tinfoil hats and dismissed”, Sorrenti said. According to her, the police told her brother things would be “fine”.
Despite the police executing the search warrant and finding nothing suspicious, as well as her mother being alive and well, Sorrenti says she is still a suspect in the investigation. Her devices are not being returned before they are examined by digital forensics, a process which she has been advised could take “months”.
“Because it was a crime that was motivated against transgender people, it was a hate crime perpetrated against me. Instead of helping me, the police terrorised me and my loved ones, traumatising me and leaving my fiancé and I on the verge of losing everything,” she says, “They victimised me for being the victim of a hate crime.”
Sorrenti then goes on to ask for help with a GoFundMe to move “immediately” as well as recoup her losses and “build a legal fund” to protect her rights after being subjected to “emotional damages, financial damages, blatant violations of the Human Rights Act and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression”. At time of writing, the fundraiser has reached £51,000 of a £57,000 goal.
Message to my haters pic.twitter.com/HsKcldsitU
— keffals (@keffals) August 10, 2022
There is no policy in Sorrenti’s city against swatting and she fears that this will happen again, and her “home is not safe”. She does not yet know when she will return to Twitch streaming as she feels traumatised, and wants to let people know what happened to her so she can begin to seek justice.
London Police Services’ chief Steve Williams has released a statement regarding her arrest, which importantly does not directly apologise to her for misgendering her and using her dead name. The statement claims that they “acknowledge the distress this has caused Ms. Sorrenti” and that they will be “reviewing the occurrence to understand how that might have happened.”
Despite being shaken up and traumatised, Sorrenti has said via Twitter that she has a message for her “haters”. “I’m not backing down. I know that the work I do is incredibly valuable, and thousands of trans people told me that,” she said. “I have people almost every day saying they came out to their families because of me.”
Finally, she said, “If they want me to stop, the next time they better manipulate the police into pulling the trigger.”
Harassment against streamers remains a serious issue on Twitch. Last month, the company outlined a shareable ban list and other features designed to reduce toxicity.