Open letter to UK Women’s Organisations from female survivors of male violence.
Written by FOVAS (Female-Only, Violence and Abuse Survivors)
Dear Women’s Organisations,
We are women survivors of systemic male violence in all its forms. As you probably know, 98% of sexual offences and 80% of violent crimes are committed by males against females and not the reverse. We have suffered every kind of horror inflicted on our bodies and minds. For many of us, we are battling every day with trauma symptoms. Speaking out is not easy for us and we respectfully ask that you listen.
As you may be aware the government is considering changes to the Gender Recognition Act. See this fact sheet for more details:
We are extremely concerned about these proposed changes which will allow any biological male to easily self-identify “as a woman” with zero oversight, no medical verifications, nothing. As women this will take away our fundamental right to female-only spaces such as rape and domestic violence shelters, hospital wards, changing rooms, showers, prisons and so forth. This would make it very difficult for you to refuse any male in women’s spaces even under the Equality Act (2010) exemptions. We are surprised that we, as survivors, are having to explain to you, women’s organisations, why we don’t want biological males in our spaces but we have no choice but to speak out in the face of a barrage of online verbal abuse, death threats and threats of male sexual torture.
For many of us, we are only alive today because of women-only spaces. We know how vital it is for our healing and we fear for other women. Some of us fear for our lives without the support of women’s services, which many of us will be unable to attend with a biological male presence there.
We disagree with these proposed changes. We would like to keep our spaces for females only and we ask that you oppose the changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in the up and coming consultation (ends 19th October 2018) for the following reasons:
1. We object to being made invisible as survivors of male violence. We object to our needs being disregarded and made less of a priority than those of trans people, in particular trans-identified males.
We are being put second in the following ways:
● We are being forced to submit to the transgender-activist worldview that a
woman is a feeling in a man’s head, rather than a biological reality.
Please think about whether you honestly believe this and that women don’t experience biology-based oppression? If you don’t believe that woman is merely a feeling why are you validating this? Would it be acceptable for a Muslim woman to expect a generic survivor’s group to include Muslim prayers as part of the group and claim she is oppressed if the members refuse to participate? Or for a pagan woman to expect a generic survivor’s group to include pagan rituals and claim she is oppressed if women’s services do not enforce this as something women must participate in? If not, why then make women and your whole service submit to a trans-activist worldview? Muslim and Pagan women are not demanding this. No other oppressed group has demanded that another group submit to their view of the world. Why is such a small group being prioritised to the point where women must sacrifice their sex-based human rights?
● We do not feel safe and mounting evidence shows we are not safe. 80-95% of men
who identify as women retain their penises. They also commit crimes at the same
rate as other men.
Women’s Aid motto is “Until Women and Children are Safe”. We do not feel safe having males in our spaces. If my rapist follows me you will ring 999. You will get the police to do safety checks on my welfare. If he comes near the refuge you will force me to leave there for my own safety and the safety of other women. However, if he calls himself a woman you would feel obliged to welcome him into the refuge, and the women objecting would be considered bigots. Under the new law you may be forced to do this or at least you would find it very difficult to prevent.
For some of us, our perpetrators were trans at the time of abuse, or transitioned later after abusing us. Please see footnote 1 for evidence that women are not safe with males, however they identify, in female-only spaces.
Some predators are males who identify as women and others are just men posing as trans for the purpose of exploiting women. This will not matter under the reformed GRA as any male will have instant access through being able to declare themselves a woman at any point using a simple administrative procedure.
There is mounting evidence of males trying to transition for unscrupulous reasons. According to Oxford psychologist K. Saunders, some men were seeking transition because they were paedophiles and had expressed a belief that intimate contact with children would be more socially acceptable in a female role. She refused to let these men transition because they are paedophiles. Please see K. Saunders’ report in footnote 2.
Also, please see footnote 3 for evidence of an overwhelming number of sex offenders trying to transition to gain access to women’s prisons when compared to males in prison for other offences.
You can see how checks by psychiatrists are vital in preventing rapists and paedophiles transitioning for sinister reasons. Under the proposed changes to the GRA we would lose all of these checks, and transitioning would become a mere administrative process. No psychiatrists would be involved.
We also want to draw attention to male autogynephiles who become sexually aroused by being seen as women. The changes to the GRA would allow these men to gain legal status as female and access women-only spaces. Please see footnote 4.
It is sad for trans-identified males who genuinely believe they are women but it is abusive to force vulnerable natal women to participate in this belief. Our safety should not be sacrificed for the comforts of men with gender dysphoria.
● We are being treated as props. Female survivors are not props to validate the
identities of trans people.
Females are human beings in our own right, with specific needs. We object to the fact that our own healing and needs are being disregarded and amalgamated with trans rights, when our needs are actually very different. We did not have a choice about identifying as female, we simply are and have been abused and oppressed on that basis. No oppressed group has been able to identify their way out of slavery and torture and genocide so we object now that some members of an oppressor group (males) want to identify their way into an oppressed group (females). As women’s organisations you should all have a full understanding of patriarchy.
We are worried that trans-identified biological males are demanding that females who are traumatised by them be present at the services they are accessing, rather than these trans-identified males starting their own groups.
● Suicides and Murders
We are told we have to allow biological males access into our spaces because of the high number of trans suicides. However, ten women a week commit suicide and 60,000 a year attempt it (Crime Survey England and Wales 2014). More women attempt suicide every year than there are trans people. One survey (Mathy 2002b) found that lesbians have a higher suicide attempt rate than trans people. Southall Black Sisters also found a high rate of suicides for South Asian women, and young women’s suicides have doubled in the last ten years (Independent 2017)
There are also more women than trans people murdered every year. Both women and trans people are murdered predominantly by males. We ask why trans suicides and murders are being prioritised but yet again lethal and pandemic male violence against women and girls continues to be ignored. Could it be because murders of males by other males is, as always, deemed more important than murder of females by males? This speaks volumes about who has more power in society. Please see footnote 5. This is a bigger threat to women as trans-identified males can access trans spaces as well as many women’s spaces, but where will female survivors who are traumatised by males go for support?
● Why should male-bodied people’s rights be prioritised over the needs of pregnant
women and women with nursing babies?
Only females become pregnant and women’s rights are synonymous with children’s rights because of this. This is all made invisible by trans politics which seeks to deny biology. We count these women among our numbers. We ask that mothers, who make up an extremely high number of women, be prioritised over trans ‘women’. This is why we must prioritise biology over identity.
2. We the undersigned object to being forced to further dissociate from our bodies and our feelings in order to accept a reality we do not agree with. We have freedom of speech and we do not agree that male-bodied people are women and do not think we should be forced to pretend we agree.
We are being told that we have to accept that male-bodied people are women and that we have to have them in our spaces. Trans-identified male-bodied people are fundamentally different to born women. This is a problem for us because, although we can pretend that we believe trans-identifying males are women, to anyone who asks us, our bodies tell us different and we feel the same fear and panic and PTSD symptoms as when we are around ordinary biological males. This massively and negatively impacts on our healing.
We all know that the history of rape and domestic violence stems from women being oppressed on the basis of their biological sex. When husbands could legally beat their wives in 1886, a woman was classed as an adult human female. When women were allowed to be paid less, a woman was classed as an adult human female. When women were allowed to be denied education, a woman was classed as an adult human female. Feminists had to campaign for decades to force men’s institutions to change their women-hating policies but now all of a sudden when males decide they want to come into female-only spaces, woman is a mere identity.
Pretending we believe trans-identified males are women is not the answer and is in fact dangerous for many of us who have dissociated from our bodies and are only just learning to trust them again and our feelings. To pretend we think trans-identified males are women would require a huge amount of dissociation that would put our healing at risk, would violate our boundaries and quite frankly deny reality in a way that is completely insane on a scale of George Orwell 1984 proportions. Demanding that women who have been subjected to male violence accept the lie that “this man is now a woman” violates women’s material reality and reinforces the lies and intimidation men inflict on women in order to dominate and control us.
This is especially dangerous for women who do not yet know how to have boundaries. To be forced to further dissociate by an organisation like Rape Crisis or Women’s Aid is an absolute violation and goes against everything you stand for. To force women to accept males in their spaces fundamentally violates the central reason why these women-only organisations were created in the first place, and renders them meaningless. This is especially when you consider that 80-95% of males who transition to women keep their penises.
3. We the undersigned cannot heal with males in our spaces and feel re-traumatised having males in our spaces. This effectively renders all women’s services irrelevant. We may as well just have mixed services if any male can access women’s services (which they will be able to do under the proposed changes to the GRA).
Women’s services already recognise that women need female-only spaces yet some of you are disregarding it or acting as though this is somehow different because a particular biological male identifies as transgender.
Some of the principles of healing from abuse are:
– Safety as a priority (physical and emotional)
– Avoiding re-traumatisation
– Learning about boundaries and gaining confidence to assert them
– Learning to trust our own judgement and instincts
These are used as standard practice across the board from group therapy and one-to-one therapy through to support services for women etc., yet for some reason they are being ignored. All of these are under threat of having males in our spaces. We are shocked that we are having to ask women’s organisations why you are disregarding your own principles.
As survivors who are healing we know all too well the effects of trauma. We often have a physical body response when near to males (especially those males who don’t respect our boundaries) – our bodies grow tense, our shoulders stiffen, breathing quickens, and thoughts become cloudy. We fold in ourselves to try to make ourselves less visible, safe. It is well known from the work of trauma experts that in such a state of hyper- or hypo arousal, healing cannot take place and attempts at processing what has happened to us simply re-traumatises us, taking us around in circles, which is why female-only spaces are vital to us.
As we began to heal, we learnt, for the first time, that we have the right to say “No”. We learnt what boundaries are. We learnt to begin reconnecting with and listening to our bodies again. We began to make sense of all the psychological tactics that had kept us trapped. And now, many people want to tell us, once more, that we should ignore what our eyes, ears and bodies tell us, squash down our instinctive warning cries, dissolve our boundaries, and accept that a man is a woman because he says he is and we are asked to welcome him within our sacred circle, in all the places we are most vulnerable, when we are imprisoned, pregnant, fleeing from domestic abuse, having intimate examinations, getting changed, or sleeping.
We are told that if we feel re-traumatised or refuse to accept this, that is because we are transphobic, and that this person’s suffering, brought by the presence of his alleged “feminine brain” and his desire to wear the trappings of gendered womanhood from which we could not escape, is far greater than ours. The problem is ours and we should learn to get over it. And so we are gaslit, guilt-tripped, and manipulated again into putting our own needs aside and caring for a man who demonstrates his ability to cross our boundaries.
And we should still be able to heal our wounded bodies and fragmented minds under these circumstances. Really? Women’s Aid clearly states on page 24 of their Power to Change manual that some survivors of male violence will not feel safe in groups with males; will not be able to talk honestly and freely in front of males. Yet no one is talking about what effect having males who identify as females will have on women. This is being treated like it is a non-issue.
Rape Crisis clearly state in their evidence-based best practice model that survivors need to be ‘safe and secure and have their dignity explicitly recognised’, that our ‘responses to trauma need to be validated as normal – not sick or maladaptive.’ Yet if we are not even allowed to say we are traumatised by having biological males in our spaces how can this best practice model be adhered to?
● The exemptions in the Equality Act will be unworkable under the proposed changes
to the GRA.
The government says we will retain our sex-based protections under the Equality Act but this will be unworkable if the Equality Act is undermined and changed by the back door because the legal definition of sex will have been made ambiguous. How can we have sex-based protections with no real definition of sex?
It is already very difficult for women’s organisations to apply these exemptions. How much more difficult will it be if we lose the scrutiny of medical professionals – GPs, psychiatrists etc. How will we prevent predatory males from accessing women’s spaces when we, firstly, have no access to their records to know if they are a rapist; secondly, are not allowed to ask if they are transgender; and thirdly, even if we know they are trans-identified males we are not able to prove this because under the GRA their birth certificate will now say female. How can services refuse any male on this basis? If you do you could be subject to endless legal challenges, draining time, energy and resources. We also worry the onus will be put onto vulnerable women to say they don’t want trans-identified males in their spaces. Please see footnote 6 for more information on how the exemptions will be unworkable.
We ask that you support us by doing the following:
1. Speak out against the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act in the recently released government consultation, in particular against self-identification.
2. Read the information on the following websites about how the proposed changes will genuinely affect women before submitting your consultation response:
3. Use the exemptions in the Equality Act and ask for them to be extended so they are effective. We are shocked, as survivors, that more of you haven’t already been using these. The exemptions are legal and have been written into the act because of females’ innate vulnerability. They are designed to be used. Please see footnote 7 for more information.
4. Don’t be afraid to stand up for women. Many of us are vulnerable women yet we have been able to stand up in the face of death threats, we ask that you have the courage to join us.
5. Don’t allow yourselves to be bribed by funding. All the funding in the world will not be effective if we lose our women-only spaces.
6. Make other arrangements for trans people or ask that trans people have their own services. If the trans community wish to lobby for their own services, as women historically had to, we believe that women would stand side by side with them to support this.
Please see footnote 8 for evidence of women already being affected. If self-ID passes these incidences will only increase.
We know people are scared to speak out and challenge this but it is vital that you do so. It will be much harder to get our rights back if we lose them. Do you really want to be wasting your resources to fight this in ten years’ time once you have had a string of abusive males in your refuges and a mounting number of traumatised women and children who will never trust a women’s refuge again?
We would like to end with a quote from Audre Lorde:
‘Your silence will not protect you.’
Footnote 1 Evidence that women are not safe with males in female-only spaces
Footnote 2 Transgenderism and paedophilia. Report by K. Saunders
Footnote 3 Sex offenders transitioning with the aim of being transferred to women’s prisons
https://www1.bps.org.uk/sites/default/files/BPS-response-HoCWE-Transgender-Equality-Approved.pdf (see section 8)
Footnote 4 Transgenderism and autogynephilia
Gender dysphoria is not one thing
Footnote 5 Female victims of male violence
Footnote 6 The exemptions in the Equality Act (2010) and how they would not work with self-ID
Footnote 7 A guide about protecting women-only spaces
Footnote 8 Examples of women harmed by self-ID
This details how mental health wards are failing women by having male staff
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bfx639 (at around 9 minutes)
We attach signatories to the letter and a number of stories from survivors.
If you have enquiries or comments or if you would like to add your name to our letter please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the full list of names of the 685 people and three organisations who have signed in support of the open letter to UK Women’s Organisations.
Signed by survivors, those who have worked or are working in the women’s sector and
Ms Jenifer Lavery
Louise A. Brown
Karen Ingala Smith (CEO of Nia)
Mariana Perez Ocana
Dr Emma Hilton
Joey G. Mueller
Dr Lynne Harne
Claire Louise Pritchett
D. Parker Ruth Ramsden
Cynthia A Lennie St. Luce
Angela C. Wild
Victoria Jones Rachael Rowe
Suzan Sevgi Judithdaughter
S. L. Bondarchuk
Catrin Slade Anne Wilkinson
L. S. Sharrow
Mary Alice Miller
Myndi Wexler Jennifer Dale
Francesca K Volkes
Amanda Clark Dawn Susan
Siobhan E. Vogt
Joy Vann Rebecca Zuesse
Denise Wightman Angie Sabin
Linda Ann Lett
Dr Coral Casey
Julia Lamb Tod
Louise Hillier Lyn Conroy
Cathryn Mulholland Reilly
Gina Richardson Abby S.
Sapphire Ceres Maclean
Jane Mulholland Katy Gilardi (Psychotherapeutic counsellor)
J A Wang
Sarah R J
Theresa Van Tassel
Lesbian Rights Alliance
We Need To Talk
The list has continued to grow in response to the open letter. So far an extra 44 names: Heidi Wilson
Carla Groenewald Lara K. Annie Ramsey Anu Crone Dar Guerra Louisa Cruz Reinke Stephenie Howe
Madeline R. Susan Lee
Kathleen Moss Janice Vaughan Natalie Bird Chloe H. Fiona C. M. Davies Mandy Stewart Rose Kayson Anna Newsham Clare B Dimyon MBE (Human Rights – LGBT) #MeToo 1998 Maria Crewe Anna Red Charlotte Finn A O’Leary Vera McAllister Kate Roe Anne Bevan Julie Linda Karanja
Jeremy Webb Callum McKeefery