Survivors’ stories

I agree with so much of what is said here (re the mental impact of being told the definition of woman is changing). As a survivor of an abusive relationship, for which I got a lot of help on MN, I struggle with the DARVO and gaslighting tactics. It’s the same sense of outrage and helplessness at hearing lies told about and to me and having little power to refute them. I never thought I’d be back in a situation like that, and yet here I am.

But… this time I recognise the abuse for what it is and am surrounded by people who help me to say, “Fuck that shit” and fight back. I will not stop telling the truth. I will not stop fighting for women and girls’ rights, safety, privacy and dignity. Abuse me all you want, it doesn’t make you right and instead highlights all over again why women need these rights and provisions in the first place.

So… bruised, but fuck it. Here I am. There’s a consultation to read, people to talk to and #randomactsofmanliness to be done!



I am a survivor of child hood sexual abuse, domestic violence and have PTSD as well as bipolar.

I feel a serious and deep despondency about this entire erosion of female rights. I am typically manic at this time of year, what with the extra sunlight and long days but this year I have found myself stuck in a serious depressive slump for the first summer ever.

If rape is to be forcefully penetrated by a penis, against your will…..then what if the man that rapes somebody says he is a woman with a giant lady clitoris. Does that mean they were not raped?

A great deal of biological women have experienced male aggression/violence/intimidation etc. The youth hostels used to be a safe place to stay but now anybody can stay in any room at all and me, a person that is the same sex as 50% of the population am expected to pay a premium for a single room as it is now ME that is the freak that expects my private spaces to remain private. Done beliveve me? this a quote from an email when I enquired-

“We separate our shared dormitory accommodation by gender.

It sounds like on this occasion a private room would be most suitable for your stay.”

So despite gender being a social construct that resides on the head, I am supposed to put my need for safe space to one side and allow anybody with a penis to share my room. Because of what is in their head.

What about what is in MY head?

What about my horrific memories of him climbing into bed behind me, forcing me flat against the wall and pushing my my little pony nighty up and hurting me? The smell of his semen on me and the sickly BO aroma that I was covered in afterwards from him sweating on me. Why the hell should I have to encounter that in a fucking changing room meant for WOMEN.

I do not want communal toilets either. When my fanny is dripping lumps of chopped up liver and i’m sat vulnerable with my pants round my ankles and I’m fighting with my moon cup, I do not want a 10 inch gap under a flimsy cubicle door with Bob the builder having a shit next to me and Mike from accounts trying to have a conversation about if I will go out for drinks with him. When my hands are covered in blood as its my heaviest day, I do not want the side eye from men at the sink as they judge me for having the fucking cheek to menstruate.

I was not able to join in with the manfriday stuff on twitter as my profession is linked to my account, how bad is that? I was scared to raise my voice despite it being a law abiding campaign!?

I have also postponed my PhD. I was due to start this year. Without sounding dramatic, this hangs like a black cloud over my head and I worry sick for my children. the rights of 50% of the population are being decimated for the few snowflakes that want to mansplain what it is to chest feed and campaign for two fathers on a birth certificate.

I’m a woman and proud. Men have not broken me yet but at times it does feel overwhelming and I am actually crying my eyes out writing this.

I am a woman.

NOT a ciswoman.




I was sexually assaulted by a boy at my school when I was asleep.  I woke up to it happening. I am so distressed about the guidance produced for schools by transgender groups, and endorsed by children’s orgs, health bodies and local authorities, that recommends male bodied children should be allowed to share sleeping accommodation with girls on residential trips without parents being informed or the girls themselves even being consulted. I am losing sleep over it and my mental health is really suffering. I cannot believe that  not a single organisation is standing up for girls like me. I have no words for how abandoned I feel.

Chloë H

Keep fighting. I lived in shelters in Los Angeles for about a year, and the trans had more rights than me with the showers. I have nothing against trans, but one was a criminal who only went trans to get out of a male prison. Then he was transferred to a women shelter in Los Angeles after he did his time. I call him he because even the trans women who were doing a great job passing suspected that he was not trans. One day he was staring at me in the nude with a lust look. I said I thought you were transitioning to a woman? He told me he could rape me and get away with it. I said you would be one dead man if you try. There is no protection in women shelters, but even trans women knew he was bad news.

In another shelter a trans told a woman who had mental health problems he may be transitioning to a women, but he still has a dick and can use it. The woman left the woman shelter out of fear. When I witnessed for her, I was kicked out. Another woman was actually beat up by a trans ,and the shelter never reported it.

I delivered this story not as hate towards trans women. I delivered this story to reveal that some criminal men attempt to use the trans term to get at vulnerable women. That doesn’t mean every trans women commits these violent crimes. It was trans women who protected me against these criminal men because the shelter staff turned their faces in another direction. I want to make my position clear. I hope that isn’t a problem. I am a rape survivor and understand the fear of criminal men who are so desperate to get at vulnerable women, they will put on a dress. Even trans women transitioning well were afraid of them.

Deborah FD


Letter from a prison officer, sent to Anne Ruyzlo, and read out at a meeting. It is NOT a comment on all MtF trans prisoners, just an account of one prison officer’s experiences.

“We had one [trans women] who talked about their periods all the time and made the women so uncomfortable because they knew it was bullshit but dare not say anything . It’s constant gaslighting of staff and prisoners because we have to pretend we think they’re women all the time. No one does.

Most of the men are sex offenders and what we’ve noticed is that once they’re rehoused with the women they totally give up the pretence of womanhood . They dress and act like the blokes that they are once they have what they want.

I am bound to lie constantly if women prisoners ask me “is that a man?”and sometimes they ask and they are terrified , but we are bound by confidentiality and are not allowed to confirm it, so I try to tell them without telling them, if you know what I mean.

I’ll say “you know I am not allowed to tell you, so listen to your instincts” or something. Most of these women have been victims of childhood sexual exploitation, rape or prostitution etc. They feel threatened to be trapped around men. You can see their mental health decline.

Also you see friendships developing between male sex offenders and vulnerable women and there’s fuck-all we can do about it.

Another worrying trend I’ve noticed is that with our very butch women, it becomes the norm for them to be asked “when are you transitioning? Are you on T (testosterone) yet?” and that sort of thing by staff and prisoners in conversation. One of them recently got really upset after loads of it and flipped out saying “I’m a fucking woman get off my back”. Without asking sometimes, people would assume they must want to be a man and call them ‘he’ and ‘him’ without asking. And on one occasion the woman started to believe it herself and started questioning whether she was, in fact, a man after months of his nonsense. It’s literally sending people mad.

A woman came to tell us that she felt like she was using more drugs because she was being intimidated by “that tranny in the next pan”. She got a nicking [reprimand] for using the word ‘tranny’ but nothing was done to investigate the intimidation. She said he said to her “remember , I’m a fucking dude and I will rape you bitch” She had previously been a victim of rape and this had impacted greatly on her mental health. Yet the only thing that came out of this was about the language she had used when she tried to ask for help”


Twenty years on from the physical and sexual abuse I suffered, I am happily married to a gentle and kind man. However, I am still very nervous and jumpy around men I do not know and feel afraid if I am in situations where I feel vulnerable with unknown males around. Female only spaces are incredibly important to me and I place huge value on them as they are spaces in which I can feel safe and know that I will not encounter anyone with a male body. I am incredibly distressed by the idea that I and other women like me may be about to lose those spaces, and the idea that people with an agenda are dismissing my fears as irrational and weaponising it as transphobia just adds to that. Please keep women only spaces for natal women, they are so important.
Caroline C

My father used to dress up in my mum’s clothes and a mask to abuse me. It’s essential for me to have women only space and I’m very pleased that you are putting this letter together.
Emma Campbell

I am a survivor of an abusive Lesbian relationship. I did not know about refuges at the time and did not use one. I understand that women’s refuges are considering having men who say they are women as staff and also to come into refuges if they need to. I do not consider these men to be women. If I was in that situation again and the refuge had male staff or men coming into refuge I would not consider this a safe space for me and would not use the refuge. There is an exemption under the Equality Act for these kind of situations and I am shocked that women’s refuges are not using it.

Hi, I can leave an anonymous quote about how after I was physically assaulted (by a man I didn’t suspect would attack me) I felt alert, vigilant and distrustful in potential male company and only felt more relaxed comfortable and at ease in the absence of male company. My attacker’s genitals and my sexual parts were involved in a bodily attack, he didn’t care about my identity and at that point I didn’t care about his! This means that I focused on potential hazards and threats (risks from males) and struggled to concentrate attentively on other things when I was on my guard. I felt if men discovered my vulnerability it would increase my fear / decrease my safety. This was very draining. I got support from an Idva and ‘grounding sessions’ from women, who I felt had more understanding not just of the attack but its context. The fear of physical contact with men has reduced so it doesn’t inhibit my day as much but would I have reached this point if there were more mixed spaces? I didn’t want to go to a mixed meditation class (where I had my eyes shut) so it would have been a barrier.

I reflect on my life, on my experience of living as a woman. I try to understand what being a woman means to me. What is particular to my experience of being a female human being rather than a male one? Do I identify as a woman? Is it a choice? Did I ever choose to be a woman? And the answer is clear. No. It was never a choice.

On that autumn night long ago in the early 1950s, the midwife took one look at my external genitals and that was that. I was a girl. An immature female person. Who would grow into a woman, an adult female person. Whether I liked it or not. And by the way, the midwife did not “assign me female”. No. She recognised me for what I was – a baby female human being. A baby girl. And that’s how I was treated. As a girl. Whether I liked it or not. And I didn’t like it. Not at all. As a little girl, I longed and longed to be a boy. Because I could see that boys have more freedom. Boys are taken seriously. Boys are safer. Boys aren’t afraid all the time. All of that was completely clear to my 5, 6, 7-year old eyes. But I was a girl. I couldn’t change that and I was afraid.

My father sexually abused me. Because I was a girl. “I hurt you, rip you open and make you bleed because you are bad. You are cunt. You are whore. You are a tease.” In this way I learnt that I deserved my own abuse. And this assured my silence. Because to speak of it would be to reveal that I deserved it. That it was all I was good for. So I was silent. And in the daytime world, he ridiculed me, like he ridiculed my mother. And when he ridiculed her, he ridiculed me because I knew that I was growing up in her image and not in his. As girl. As future woman.
Anna Djinn

I am so angry I am even having to write this. Just yesterday I was researching suicide methods. This is how severely traumatised I am by my abuse. I can barely function. I cannot even make meals for myself and have to have carers. I should be accessing healing women’s spaces but they are all disappearing. Instead of getting help even in this state of severe trauma I have no choice but to spend my time writing this. I have a severe headache just from even being at my computer.

This is life and death for me. If there are no longer women’s spaces where I feel safe because trans are allowed in them it will be impossible for me to heal. It is hard enough even with the women’s spaces. Stop ignoring abuse survivors and our voices. We need safe spaces and spaces with trans-identified males in them are not safe. I was sexually harassed by a self-confessed trans woman who was sending me pictures of himself in female underwear yet you expect me to feel safe in a women’s space with this person to heal from abuse? Are you for real? To any so called feminist supporting trans politics so you can get funding or because it is conducive to your career or your bank balance – shame on you – you are on the wrong side of history – stop ignoring our voices.

Coming from child sexual abuse and trauma by men and I would feel so at risk if I had to be near trans identified males.

The first time I was raped was by a new boyfriend. We had arranged to meet in a pub near my house and he (deliberately in retrospect) drank too much to drive home and I felt unkind making him get public transport so I allowed him to stay. I made it very clear I didn’t want sex and we went to sleep clothed. I woke up to find him raping me. I screamed at him to stop and he did. This doesn’t sound like a really big deal I know. But on Monday, I got on the bus and the crowds of people made me have a panic attack. I had to get off. I couldn’t go to work for a month because I couldn’t bear to have anyone within a foot of me. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t bear anyone looking at me or taking to me or interacting with me in any way. I lost my trust in all men. I am still frightened of all men. I have never knowingly been on my own with a man unless I know him very very well since that night 20 years ago. If unknown men are going to be in toilets and changing rooms, I will not be able to use them. I deserve to have access to toilets and changing rooms as a rape survivor and my rights to facilities should not be less important than those of a man who identifies as a woman. Thank you.

I oppose the notion of trans-identified males in female only spaces. I have experienced habitual male sexual violence since the age of 5, when I was supposed to be at school and protected. I’ve been raped in a public toilet. Raped by my now ex-husband, who enjoyed to rape me whilst he wore my clothing. And finally, in November of last year, I was gang raped in my village, pissed on and spat on as they assured themselves that it was fine because I’m a “crackhead.” I’m a mother who dared to walk to the shop for a pint of milk. Every romantic relationship I have been in has been violent, to some degree. From run of the mill pushing and barging to locking me in the house and attempting to kill us both in a house fire. My situation is not isolated. There are thousands upon thousands of women who have been left permanently traumatised by male violence.

I would ask you to consider why women are oppressed by men. Why they are the object of so much sexual and physical violence. Because it is NOT because we identify as women. The oppression of women is the oppression of a class with shared biological characteristics. We are oppressed with sexual violence because women have vaginas. We are oppressed with domestic violence because biologically, men are physically stronger than women. And men learn to oppress women socially. It isn’t something they are born with a desire to carry out… they are taught by their parents, their peers, their idols, that dominating women is an acceptable – even desirable – behaviour.

Transwomen are socialised as males. They are taught misogyny in the same way that other men are, and the idea that they can escape that socialisation is as ridiculous as the idea that there is a man on this earth who is not, in some way, sexist without intention. Privilege is being blind to the things that do not affect you, or pertain to you, in any way. No, I do not trust transwomen not to assault women. But even if I did, does it matter? I will never trust men, and the proposed changes to the legislation surrounding gender identity will make it easier for men to infiltrate safe spaces for women as women. I’m told that this is not a concern that I should worry about, but how many times have we seen violent men in prisons attempt to identify as women so that they may be transferred to female prisons? It is not a new concept to posit that men pose a threat to female people. It is entirely rational for women to be afraid of males in spaces that are supposed to be safe. And whether or not people are inclined to agree with it that includes natal males who now identify as women. I will not apologise for the fear I feel as a consequence of male behaviour. That is not my burden to bear.
D.H. page-1/#comment-407
This is my response to how the last remaining services for women only could disappear due to the transgender issue. I am a woman who comes from a background of domestic violence as a child. Developed an intense fear of men. I am from the 60’s – between the 80s and 2000 there have been women’s groups to go to that were supportive and helped me with social skills and company. Slowly due to cut backs I have been unable to access such support in group activities and advice due to the groups amalgamating with men. I am severely male phobic due to the severity of the abuse I suffered. Any sight of a male or finding out a person who I thought was a woman is a man causes me some distress and confusion.  Transgender is a new situation for us women to get to grips with and it does feel so unfair of those men who feel they are women to at such a short space of time be fully accepted into every women’s space. If all male institutions feel they have the right to protect their need to keep women out surely women born women have the right to protect their space too. Men can set up their own refuges/ groups/ and the transgender situation need to consider their own group and allow the time and space women born women need. Domestic violence on women is so raw – men, whether truly men or transing – need to understand why women need their own space and think about setting up their situation for those who don’t mind instead of criminalising women who don’t feel safe or comfortable in situations which include men.

I’m going to speak about my experience of being partnered with a man who would claim that he was a woman. If oppressed people (and women are a class of oppressed people) cannot define who they are then those people are unable to determine for themselves and form their own struggle….to determine which words we can and can’t use to describe ourselves and our bodies and experience of living in these bodies in my view is a profound assault on women’s human rights.

The man that I am talking about doesn’t live full time as a woman and never did. He inhabits his persona during the day as a white privileged male and the woman comes out at the weekends….It is very much a fetish…. In his personal ad he is looking for a dominant lesbian to fulfil his need to be feminised and that he is willing to be …punished… and live as a sex slave. Men like that do actually fall under the trans umbrella. ….He is protected under the law for his fetish. He can go into ladies toilets everywhere he once but this time he is a fetishist who is protected under the
trans umbrella.

This relationship was psychologically, physically and financially abusive….it completely destroyed my soul and I became a shell of myself. When my friend asked me how I am doing I said: I’m just waiting to die….the last thing I needed was to be called bigoted by services so I told no one how I was suffering.

Jackie Mearns

I was raped as a child and again as an adult. It has affected every single part of my life. Every relationship. Most of them were abusive because my sense of self was so destroyed, that I thought I was worth nothing. Women’s Aid gave me the strength to leave my abuser and save my children and myself. But even now, I am terrified around strange men. If I even find myself alone in a lift with a strange man, I have to get out because I can feel an anxiety attack starting. It is an in-built biological reaction to years of rape and abuse. If a male bodied person was in a shelter or a rape crisis group with me, I would be compelled to leave. I would suffer panic attacks and be entirely unable to manage. I would no longer feel safe. My need for female only spaces is hardwired into me as a result of the abuse I suffered. Pretending that traumatised women can’t tell the difference between male and female bodied people, is gaslighting on a massive scale. Asking us to deny the effects of our trauma, to override all those dreadful feelings
destroying us from the inside out, in order to be kind and inclusive, is, I’m afraid, simply wrong.
Jane Galloway

As a lesbian the first time I went to a lesbian bar I was harassed by a man in women’s clothing all night telling me I am not a lesbian. This was when I was first questioning my sexuality and was feeling very confused and scared and vulnerable. This was the last thing I needed as I went there to meet other women. Then I tried to access a group for women coming out as lesbians and it was stopped because of a trans identifying male accessing it which caused a huge divide between the women accessing it. There was a huge conflict. Some of the women did not feel comfortable and it resulted in the group being shut down. The same thing happened to a women’s festival I used to attend which was the only thing that stopped me feeling suicidal as I am unwell and stuck at home all the time. It took me years to arrange disabled access and finally be able to attend and helped me to manage my mental health as I had something to look forward to where I could feel safe and happy. However, it got shut down because of males identifying as
females trying to attend an acting in ways that made women feel unsafe.

Quotes from Professionals
What an appalling affront to women’s rights and to the brave and brilliant women who worked so hard to create the women’s refuge movement. I wonder if the idiots cheerleading this possible move have the slightest understanding of how completely traumatised most women and children in refuges are. How important it is to them to have a safe haven where they won’t encounter any males. Adult sons are not even allowed to visit their mothers in refuge. These are wonderful safe places that are for women to recover and heal. The presence of a male, however said male identifies, could be enough to trigger a woman into leaving refuge and going back to her abuser.
And most decent transwomen – and they are the majority – would understand how triggering their presence could be and would not take a job in a refuge. Which leaves those with less than honourable reasons, plus males who can ID as female to access vulnerable women including their ex partners. But who cares about women, trans rights come first!
Caroline R – worked for Women’s Aid

When working in a women’s refuges I worked with women who were terrified that their cross dressing partners would follow them into the refuge

I am very concerned about Women’s Aid refuges admitting men who say they are women either as users of the refuge service or as staff. Having been both a Women’s Aid Advice worker and a refuge worker I would be very unhappy in either case. Women’s refuges are by definition a place of sanctuary. Women coming to refuge are expecting a female only environment both in terms of staff and other refuge users. I believe it will seriously affect whether a woman will stay on in the refuge if there are men there who are saying they are women.

I have previously worked in, and run, refuges for Women’s Aid. The idea of any male who identifies as a woman having access scares me. People such as Maria Miller speak of the assessment process to access refuge and how this would weed out potential abusers. Firstly, this is ridiculous because it is impossible to tell someone’s intentions and many abusers are good at putting on a front (it’s the same logic that says that women should automatically know who is a rapist and who isn’t). Secondly, I think people who believe this have no idea how basic the assessment to actually enter the refuge can be, especially if out of hours. The over-the-phone assessment done at weekends or in the night is incredibly basic (a handful of questions) and also relies on the person replying honestly and we did not meet the person before they turned up to the refuge (a taxi would be called for them). In this situation a male could arrive on the doorstep of a house staffed by one female worker at three in the morning, with abused women and children in bed, and with hardly any assessment of any kind. Incidentally, in my place of work it was all lone working – having males who merely ‘identify’ as women but are clearly embodied men and socialised men could make that situation particularly difficult.

Thirdly, a great many of the women I supported had not just been abused by one man but a succession of men, sometimes from childhood (including sexual abuse by family members) – they are entitled to feel safe in a refuge, which should be the one place in the world at that point that they can be assured that no men will be present – this applies also to the children who may very likely have been traumatised by witnessing male violence.

I am not against individual trans women who have, for example, transitioned and may be perceived as female by staff and residents accessing (if this were to occur), but the idea that any embodied male can enter a shared house of abused women, which (and I think again many people don’t know this) are mostly unstaffed at evenings/nights/weekends, is horrifying, and I think speaks to a general ignorance about the emotional and psychological effects of male abuse, a distorted perception of the gendered (as in male/female) nature of violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence, and a widespread ignorance about how refuges are actually run.
Anonymous refuge worker – worked for a large city based org with multiple refuges

In 6 years of working in women’s refuges (decades ago) we only once enlisted a man to come on a childcare outing, it was successful, he was het, quite atypical of the average male being the oldest of 9 kids. We never did it again cos the Mothers were anxious that re-traumatising situations could happen. We had been lucky that time. We workers agreed. I personally feel sick at the thought of trans-identified males being allowed near in any way or to enter a women’s and children’s refuge. It is not protecting women’s and children’s needs. Since when do we allow women’s safety to suffer to appease men’s identity issues?
Janey Kelf

I volunteered at a WA refuge in the 80s. If a man came to the door and he wasn’t a plumber we would phone the police. Now we’re expected to invite them in if they’re mentally ill or fetishists and house them with vulnerable women. The women I knew then, mostly working class and with kids were working really hard to rebuild their lives and would have been horrified if a TIM had been allowed in. They also would have torn him a new one. They were fierce, a lot of them.
Ali Bee