A rape victim is suing a sexual violence charity in the United Kingdom after the decision to include trans women into a women-only crisis support group left her suffering from panic attacks and feeling unable to continue attending meetings.
The claimant, known only as Sarah, had been attending support sessions run by the Survivors’ Network charity in Brighton to discuss the traumatic sexual abuse she had experienced as a child and a rape she had been a victim of in her 20s.
She argues that she has been discriminated against and suffered victimization and harassment because of the charity’s trans-inclusive approach to support groups; she further claims the charity has failed to meet the needs of all victims of sexual violence.
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“I think women have sex-based rights and protections, and these are under threat at the moment from trans activism,” Sarah told the BBC.
Sarah, who knows the man who raped her in her 20s, sought support from the rape crisis charity after having difficulties in coping with her trauma.
As she began to attend the group therapy sessions, she claims to have felt an immediate benefit.
“We had either been abused as children or had experiences as women. It was a very safe space to speak about the feelings we had been through.
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“We spoke a lot about how we were manipulated and coerced by men. I can’t tell you how much it helped me mentally,” she told the U.K. public broadcaster.
However, Sarah felt conflicted when a trans woman began to attend sessions, an individual who she says appeared to be male and wore male clothing. “I was a bit taken aback. I decided I wasn’t going to speak that week because I wasn’t comfortable.
“I don’t trust men because I have been raped by a man,” Sarah explained. “I’ve been sexually abused by men, and I just don’t necessarily trust that men are always who they say they are,” she added.
The claimant said she “felt manipulated and coerced into talking” by the group leader and suffered from a panic attack upon leaving the session.
Sarah believes that permitting trans women into women’s only support groups is discriminatory towards her.
Survivors’ Network plans to vigorously contest the lawsuit, and explained that all victims are informed of their trans-inclusion policy from the outset.
“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 charity said in a statement. “The claimant was made aware of Survivors’ Network trans-inclusive position prior to attending the group.”
“Continuing to deliver our services supporting survivors of sexual violence and abuse is of paramount importance, and we want to reassure all our current survivors and anyone seeking support that we are still here for them,” the charity added.