An open letter to Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis England and Wales

Dear Sisters,

Some of you may have seen my last blog post, The silencing of feminists silences survivors , which Woman’s Place UK very kindly published whilst protecting my anonymity. I spoke about the genuine fear as a woman in the Violence Against Women (VAW) sector in questioning the impact of gender Self-ID.

This is why I turn to you and write to you openly. We need you to step up now. What started as the Government’s proposed changes to the GRA 2004, has become an environment where self-ID policies are already happening and we, as feminists in the sector, are too scared to speak. 

I am asking you to make a simple statement. To state your support of women in the VAW sector to openly discuss the potential impacts of self-ID. Please make clear that to do so is not transphobic and as such it should never affect funding for women’s services.

By making a simple statement, it breaks the silence; it demonstrates the ‘Mother Ship’ has got our backs; it means we all remember why we are here and what the sisters in the second wave afforded us when they founded both Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis in the 1970s.  

Only this week the government has promised to consult with women’s organisations about their concerns on the proposed GRA changes, I’d say now is the perfect time to come out publicly and back us all in being part of a wider public discussion.

Do I think other national second tier organisations in the sector should be stating this too? Absolutely! But I start with your organisations because the second wavers gave birth to you and they did so to give us the freedom of assembly, voice and space to openly and safely challenge male violence.

I’m asking you to remember your heritage and your purpose. To remember that your organisations were born out of the Women’s Liberation Movement. A movement that emerged from 1960s civil rights activists, in particular political women who refused to succumb to the vociferous bullying tactics of fellow male activists who outwardly ridiculed their voices in debates and on many occasions refused to let them speak.

The same thing is happening now. 

I think it is important that we all remember where we came from, why we work in our sector. We are here to challenge male violence and as such it is important we maintain a laser sharp focus on that goal.

I have heard repeatedly that ‘there is literally no evidence that self-ID will harm women’. However, there is a plethora of evidence to show that sex offenders will abuse self-ID and self-inclusion policies (carry out a quick google search). Or have a look at this recent study, A Woman Means Something, which evidences the incidents of voyeurism-related offences in Target stores before and after the introduction of their gender-inclusion policy found that ‘upskirting’ and ‘peeping Tom’ activity more than doubled and sometimes tripled after the policy was introduced.

I have heard the argument that laws are already in place to protect women against sexual violence. Of course we know of these laws, they only exist because of our movement. However, like any legislation those laws come into place once an assault and a crime has taken place. They will not prevent male offenders using the rhetoric of self-ID to access female only spaces to commit further attacks on women. Female-only, safe spaces reduce the risks of rape and sexual assault, that’s always been the point of having them: so, we do not have to wait for women to be attacked before we act.

Sometimes we have to stick to what we know and in our movement, we all know what male violence looks like. We don’t all agree on the mantra “Trans women are women” but we all agree that “Sexual predators are predators”!

As organisations, Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis are consistently, bravely and brilliantly raising issues about funding (or lack of it) nationally. I’d ask you to think about self-ID the next time you attend meetings at Westminster or lobby government. We all know what services will be picking up the survivors of sexual predators who abuse self-ID.

Feminism has always been about enabling women to speak their truth safely (even if disagreed with), to ask questions and to be protected when doing so. That is all I am asking you to do. Endorse us in speaking up. Protect us and our services from attack.

A statement from the Mother ship will empower the rest of us in the VAW movement (particularly those of us in smaller organisations) to be safe to speak. Once you make a statement more of us will feel empowered to stand in solidarity as a sector in the same way we stand in solidarity with survivors and always have.

In hope

An anonymous sister