Dead rats nailed to walls and public condemnation of rape crisis centres is a devastating sign of the times.
Rape crisis centres are essential. They are a place where women can go in times of the worst crisis for support, protection and shelter. They are run by people who are setting their lives apart to help others.
And they’re under attack.
To attack a rape crisis centre, in my opinion, makes you an absolute monster. To see people doing their best to support and help women and decide they’re doing it “wrong” and therefore deserve abuse makes you an absolute monster. It shows a total disregard for the women accessing those services who need them, women who are already traumatised and incredibly vulnerable, and it shows no respect for the people who are dedicating time and energy into offering that support, often having come through their own trauma.
And yet it is happening. And I am devastated and disgusted.
As with so many conflicts right now, the issue comes down to whether trans women should be given access to something set aside for women.
For trans activists the answer is trans women are women, regardless of whether they still have their penis, and to deny them access to services designed for women is against their human rights. Trans women are raped, therefore trans women should be allowed to access rape crisis centres for women, and banning trans women hurts the vulnerable rape victims they should be protecting. The argument against it, however, is that women in rape crisis centres should never be forced to be around someone with a penis, and that self-identification rules means anyone, including any man who claims to be a woman for the purposes of being around women in private spaces, can access vulnerable and traumatised women and that isn’t safe.
In Canada, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter lost its city funding after they refused to become fully inclusive of trans women. The service offers phone counselling to trans women, and states they will try to ensure the safety of any who phones them, but insisted on maintaining some spaces and services for only “female born women”. (The Telegraph).
“Since 1973, our group has responded to close to 46,000 women seeking our support in their escape from male violence,” the release reads. “Since we opened our transition house in 1981, we have housed over 3,000 women and over 2,600 children.”Summerland Review
The service was forced to depend on donations from the public to keep offering it’s service which has been accessed by so many, but also became the target of some horrific activism.
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter has been targeted in a sickening attack through the nailing of a dead rat to the door of one of their support group meetings.Uncommon Ground Media
Women who are already suffering, who are accessing a service designed to support them and protect them, were met with a nailed up dead rat. And the action didn’t stop there.
TERF is the label given to the women who do not consider trans women to be biologically female and is often used in threats of violence. The women who are accessing this service, already at a time of crisis, are being given death threats.
Whether you consider trans women to be biologically female or not, whether you support trans women being given the right to access spaces such as this or not, if you do not condemn this treatment of a rape crisis centre, you are a monster.
Of course, some rape crisis centres do open their doors to self identifying trans women, and whilst this is met with criticism, it is thankfully not subject to such violent aggression as those that refuse.
When Devon rape crisis centre asked for self-identified women to work in their shelter, there was anger. Self-identified women covers anybody, birth certificate or otherwise, who claims womanhood. Many women argued that allowing anybody without question to claim womanhood allows predatory men to take advantage of that and puts women at risk, and that women who are suffering after attack by someone with a penis deserve spaces free of anyone with a penis in which to heal.
The women who were angry with Devon Rape Crisis centre did not nail any dead animals to its walls or leave violent graffiti. The response from the women who disagreed was not comparable to the action in Vancouver, but there was vocal condemnation and anger, a lot of public criticism, and calls for women not to donate to or access the service they offer. Whilst not nearly as dangerous or aggressive, it is still damaging.
The people working there want to help women, and the women accessing that service need help. They’re doing a good thing, and they’re helping people, even if you don’t agree with how they’re doing it. They deserve respect for taking the time and the care to help in a way most of us don’t, and the women who use their service value and depend on it, and they deserve to be accepted and supported when accessing that service. Being publicly told not to use that service as a protest against their policy, that they are free to make and that many support, is akin to shaming them when they do access it. The women who access this rape crisis centre aren’t motivated by politics, they’re motivated by pure need.
The abuse of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is another level of evil. It is cruel and it is violent and it is aggressive, and claims that it is a justified backlash for wanting to preserve the exclusivity of some services is disgusting. It is not justified. If you don’t agree with them then campaign for them to change if you must, write to them, speak to them, but this repulsive way shows zero respect for what they do and who they do it for, and explains exactly why some women do not feel safe with gender neutral services. To treat women you disagree with in such a vitriolic way is incredibly male.
The criticism of Devon Rape Crisis is significantly less disturbing, significantly less violent, but none the less it harms the women needing that service and the women offering it. I don’t take offence at disagreement with policies, we cannot all agree with choices made around such an emotive subject, however calling for them to lose donations and for the women who need them to not access the service and then be left without any support is a step too far for me. They do not deserve that.
These responses to rape crisis centres are a real sign of the times. The fight over trans women being biologically female or not has made us more focussed on the politics than in the humans truly damaged by the fight. We seem to have reached a point where we see everything as black and white. There is no grey. But life isn’t that simple. No human is perfectly and purely right in their decisions and choices because there are always arguments to make and moral choices are complex, especially around this subject. You do not have to agree with what’s being done or choices being made by the people at these centres, but please respect that they are doing good, or at least trying to do good, and most of us aren’t. Most of us are too lazy or too busy or too lost to our own issues.
The women running these centres deserve respect, and the women accessing them need to be free to do so without public condemnation or threats of violence. Let’s not be so lost to fighting for our politics and passions that we forget who deserves protection in the process. Let’s not forget the humanity in the people we are fighting about. We don’t have to be silent when we feel wrong choices are being made, but we shouldn’t punish the vulnerable with our efforts to make changes.