*trigger warning: sensitive content matter*
A woman in the UK is suing a Brighton-based rape charity, saying she felt unable to speak at support groups due to its inclusive policy allowing entry to trans rape survivors.
“Sarah Summers” (anonymity pseudonym), a rape survivor in the UK who posts on Twitter as @SarahSurvivor, is suing a Brighton Rape Crisis Centre, Survivors’ Network, for discrimination because it facilitates trans-inclusive support groups.
Survivors’ Network is a charity that supports survivors of any gender who have experienced sexual violence and abuse. It provides counselling, drop-in sessions, support groups, legal advice and a helpline.
The charity notes in its trans inclusion statement that:
“Trans-inclusive feminism is key to our values and central to our services as a rape crisis centre. Nearly one in five trans people have experienced sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault and we are committed to supporting our trans siblings in their survival journey.”
Sarah claims she stopped going to support sessions held by the organisation after becoming uncomfortable with its policy on trans inclusion.
“When I was a child, I was abused by a family friend. Later, in my twenties, I was again raped by a man I knew”, she explains on her crowdjustice page.
“In both cases, I felt tricked and coerced by men, and I still have trouble trusting any men. I believe that every woman deserves the option of a safe, female-only space to heal from the trauma of rape and sexual abuse.”
The charity said in response: “The claimant accessed our groupwork in 2021. She made a complaint to Survivors’ Network in September 2021 about the presence of another attendee in the group.”
“At the end of the formal complaints process, the claimant felt that she was unable to continue accessing groupwork at Survivors’ Network”.
Continuing, “We recognise that the claimant hasn’t felt able to access the services she would like at Survivors’ Network. We have offered the claimant individual 1:1 support, and so far she has not taken us up on this offer. We want to make clear that this offer is still open to the claimant.”
The case came about at the end of April, but has garnered renewed interest today (June 28) due to some BBC coverage.
Some anti-trans voices on social media are utilising the story to make wider sweeping statements about the ‘danger’ of trans access to female spaces, under a heading of sexual violence.
While others are pointing out that cisgender survivors and trans survivors are all exactly that – survivors.
In 2018 Survivors’ Network supported 1,035 survivors of sexual violence, of which 31 were trans and non-binary, according to its most recent annual review.
In a statement, Brighton’s Rape Crisis Centre Survivors’ Network, said:
“We are disappointed to share that we have recently had legal action taken against us due to our trans-inclusive ethos.”
“The claimant alleges that we have broken equalities law as (they allege) it is not legitimate or proportionate to welcome trans women into our women-only spaces.”
“We wholeheartedly disagree and we will be vigorously defending the allegations.”
“The most important thing for us is the continued delivery of our services supporting survivors of sexual violence and abuse, and we want to reassure all of our current survivors and anyone seeking support that we are still here for you.”
“Our services will continue to be here for you, just as they have been since we started out over thirty years ago. We know that this might feel unsettling, but we’ve got you.”
We are disappointed to share that we have recently had legal action taken against us due to our trans-inclusive ethos.
We want to reassure you that we are still here for you. 💜 If you have any questions, please email email@example.com https://t.co/1rj058kWvA pic.twitter.com/xCRFI9e2YJ
— Survivors’ Network (@SurvivorsnetBtn) May 4, 2022
Sarah is bringing the case under the Equality Act, claiming indirect discrimination as well as victimisation and harassment. She told BBC: “I think women have sex-based rights and protections and these are under threat at the moment from trans activism.”
In a further statement, the charity said they were yet to receive any legal paperwork to clarify the details and basis of the claim.
Continuing: “Survivors’ Network is a charity supporting survivors of sexual violence and abuse. We support survivors of all ages and genders in Sussex and this includes Trans and Non-Binary people. We are committed to intersectionality, and trans-inclusive feminism is central to our ethos. Trans women are women and as such they are welcome into all of our women-only spaces.”
“We were made aware via social media that a legal claim was made against us on 29th April 2022 in relation to our trans-inclusive ethos. We are still yet to receive the legal paperwork to clarify the details and basis of the claim. We therefore do not know the specific details of the claim, but based on media reports our understanding is that the claimant alleges that we have broken equalities law as they claim it is not legitimate or proportionate to welcome trans women into our women-only spaces.”
“While we await the details of the claim, we wholeheartedly disagree with any suggestion that we haven’t complied with the law and we will be vigorously defending the anticipated allegations.”
It goes on to say that all survivors, including Sarah, had been assessed and received a copy of the group handbook, which says survivors should only speak if they feel comfortable. It says there was no obligation for Sarah to speak in the session.
It added: “In both the assessment and in the handbook, it is explained that all women, including trans women, are welcome in the women’s only group. The claimant was made aware of Survivors’ Network trans-inclusive position prior to attending the group.”