Brave rape victim speaks out

A rape victim in the UK has spoken out about males who appropriate womanhood being accepted in female survivor groups.

Sarah (not her real name) attended five sessions at the Survivor’s Network in Brighton before a 6 foot tall transwoman joined in. The male showed no signs of transitioning.

Sarah, who was abused between the ages of eight and 12 and raped when she was in her 20s, said that the new arrival disrupted the dynamic of the support group.

“Some women had been abused as children so obviously we had that shared experience of being a girl and abused by a man,” she said.

 “We talked a lot about male entitlement, about how men feel entitled to women's bodies. Quite often we just said how we didn't trust men and it felt like a safe space to say that.”

But after the trans woman arrived, such talk became “nonsensical”, Sarah said, adding: “It felt like the priority of the group was not to talk about male entitlement any more or our shared experiences, but about making sure this person who was born male felt comfortable.”

“No matter how much a man says they're a woman, they're still born male.”

Fearful of being labelled transphobic, Sarah left the group instead of making a scene. She later wrote to the charity but was told by the head of operations Carys Jenkins, there would be no change of policy.

“We do not police gender and we do not define who is and is not a woman; we allow women to define this for themselves,” she wrote.

The letter added, in what Sarah considers a cruel snub, that her “primary option” was to move to one-to-one support or to find another service in the city which “may be suitable for you”.

Sarah attempted to find another group but discovered that they all stated they welcomed “self-identifying females”, despite the legislation allowing a female only group to operate in this space.

She said: “I thought, 'How can you let women down so badly?' You're supposed to be a service for women who have experienced sexual violence. How can you completely disregard that the main thing about sexual violence is that you feel triggered by males?”

“We've been told by men to ignore our instincts and do what they want us to do and now we're being told that by a rape crisis service. It's crazy.

“Survivors’ Network runs a group for men. They can run a group for trans people, so male-born people are really well catered for.

 “But women, who make up the majority of those who get sexually assaulted, haven't got a space where they can just be with other women.”

Spokeswoman for Binary, Kirralie Smith, said the situation is devastating for abused women.

“This is the height of stupidity and a massive insult to survivors,” she said.

“Males, transgender and non-binary people can join their own support groups. They do not need to invade female-only spaces.

“Biological reality must be respected to enable victims to heal, move on and grow.”