Imagine you are a woman who has suffered childhood sexual abuse and that you are subsequently raped in adulthood. All your life you have blamed yourself, felt you must somehow have been ‘asking for it’.
Finally, you find group counselling sessions exclusively for women where you feel safe and supported. The professionals are compassionate, kind and helpful.
They understand how you are feeling and you share a common ground with the other women seeking help. You start to find your confidence.
But you then discover that a male-bodied trans woman who self-identifies as female is also attending the sessions.
Already abused, raped, traumatised, you desperately need a space away from males to recover.
You feel so threatened that you ask if it is possible to exclude the trans woman from the female-only sessions and suggest they instead join a designated group for transgender people.
Imagine you are a woman who has suffered sexual abuse. You find group counselling sessions exclusively for women but you discover that a trans woman is attending (stock image)
But you are told no, they have as much right to attend women-only group sessions as you do.
This is what happened to Sarah, as the report on these pages reveals. And it is happening to increasing numbers of women across Britain.
Feminists began to set up refuges and other women-only services in the 1970s in response to the tsunami of rape and domestic abuse cases.
As a young woman in the early 1980s, I volunteered in a domestic violence refuge three evenings a week and ran a Rape Crisis Helpline on a shift basis.
The women who called the helpline and came to the refuge were desperate to speak to other women without the prying – and often judgmental – presence of a man.
I recall heartbreaking stories from women about their girlhood, about being raised to take responsibility for themselves from a very early age. About the stigma of reporting any kind of sexual harassment or assault because they knew they would be disbelieved or blamed.
I also recall the look of pure relief on the women’s faces as they were told that everybody in the room understood what they were talking about and would unequivocally support them.
We would often talk about how difficult it would be to disclose such traumatic detail of sexual and domestic violation with men present.
It is heartbreaking and enraging in equal measure that, in 2021, women like Sarah are being made to feel like they cannot safely access this much needed group support.
Feminists have offered help to trans activists to set up trans-women-only facilities, in the hope this would stop them demanding access to women-only spaces. But they have never shown any interest in taking up our offer.
Incidentally, this debate goes beyond the four walls of the therapy room. The head of the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre – the person ultimately responsible for its culture and policies – is currently a trans woman.
I have no idea why the likes of Edinburgh Rape Crisis and the Survivors’ Network have decided that their definition of ‘women-only’ includes trans women who were born male.
You feel so threatened that you ask if it is possible to exclude the trans woman from the female-only sessions, but you are told no, they have as every right to attend (stock image)
They must know there is a clause in the 2010 Equality Act which explicitly states that it is legal to exclude trans women from group sexual assault therapy sessions where it is ‘a proportionate means to a legitimate aim’.
In the UK, gender self-identification is not enshrined in law and must stay that way. I have seen first-hand how allowing people to self-identify as trans women can have a terrible effect on women-only support services.
Under Canada’s self-identification laws, for example, men don’t even have to begin to meaningfully transition. Many of them still have male genitalia and it is not necessary to seek hormone treatment to get a gender recognition certificate.
I visited the desperately poor Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver, where pimps, drug dealers and violent gangs often profit by selling young women for sex.
Feminists have set up services to help support these young women out of prostitution and keep them safe from predators.
I was shown around one charity that was described as a lifeline for many of the women who have gone through its doors. At a table in the kitchen sat a group who all, to me, looked like men. They had beards and showed no signs of transitioning.
Yet a volunteer told me the group had self-identified as women when they arrived, adding: ‘They come here because it’s nicer than the homeless hostel and they know it’s illegal to throw them out.’
The blood, sweat and tears of feminists went into setting up refuges and counselling sessions that mop up the mess of male violence.
Yet for many women, just knowing that they are in the presence of someone who was born male will be enough to stop them from speaking out.
It is a total disgrace that some of the women who run these vital charities have become so scared of the trans lobby that they have sold women like Sarah down the river.