An open letter to Rape Crisis South London from a devastated survivor

Content note: This post discusses rape and transmisogyny

Dear Rape Crisis South London,

I’m at work today. I’m supposed to be working, but I can’t. My hands are shaking, and a knot in my guts twists about itself as I veer on the edge of vomiting. My head is full of thoughts of things my rapist said and thought, things I’d worked hard to believe aren’t true about me, things that aren’t true about anyone–or at least shouldn’t be.

Some years ago, you helped me get on top of the violent chattering in my mind and the sickness pervading my body. You were there for me, and you helped it stop hitting me like this.

So it’s horrifically ironic that it’s you, Rape Crisis South London, who are responsible for throwing me right back into this state.

You hit me with a blindside–it feels like it was hours ago, days ago, weeks ago, like I’ve always been like this–a mere half hour ago:

RapeCrisis SthLondon on Twitter   @stavvers Hi Zoe. Have you considered choosing to apologise for this  You can hold yr point   rage   also respect for survivors speaking out

It was in response to a string of tweets of mine from a few days ago. A deeply transmisogynistic article had come out, and I’d spoken out against it as a survivor. I said:

Storify link

After demanding an apology from me, Rape Crisis South London, you decided to pretend like both sides were in the wrong.

RapeCrisis SthLondon on Twitter   @stavvers Hold onto your rage and your point Zoe. Both are important. But all survivors deserve respect. You   Rachel. You have a choice.

Yet I don’t see you going after Rachel Hewitt. I don’t see you demanding an apology from someone who thinks in the same way as my rapist. I only see you going after me, the Bad Survivor.

You’ve made it clear, Rape Crisis South London, who you prioritise in your help, and it’s not women like me. Women like me can be thrown to the wolves to protect the hurt feelings of bigots and transmisogynists. You don’t mind rage of survivors, as long as it’s rage directed at vulnerable women, rather than rage directed at those who exhibit exactly the same pattern of logic as rapists.

I feel myself growing stronger as I write this, because a lot of survivors, trans women and trans women who are survivors (which is a fucking big overlap, if you’ve done your research) have got in touch with me, and they feel the same as me. And the way I deal is I take their pain with mine and I scream and shout about the lies you’re supporting in demanding an apology for me.

Rape is not something that springs into being due to the presence of a penis. It’s a choice a rapist makes. In supporting the transmisogyistic line that a penis is some sort of magically-guided rape missile, you’re letting rapists get away with it. My rapist claimed he couldn’t help it, and you taught me that yes, yes he could. It’s devastating to see you taking a U-turn on this.

Genitals don’t matter, it’s obsessing over others’ genitals that’s creepy. My rapist viewed me as a walking pussy. A lot of other survivors I’ve spoken to have had the same experience. So I find it really disturbing that you are implicitly supporting the transmisogynistic line that genitals should dictate who should and shouldn’t be allowed in women’s space. I don’t want to be around people who are thinking about what’s in my pants. I find it terrifying that you would prioritise having creeps who do in survivors’ spaces over women who are more likely to experience rape and sexual assault.

Our trans sisters need our help. Let’s fucking give it to them if we’re serious about tackling male violence.

Survivors shouldn’t have to apologise for anything. Once again, you taught me this, when I felt bad about feeling angry and upset at seeing my rapist’s reasoning everywhere and reacting to it. Pretending a valid emotional reaction to someone reducing you down to your genitals is something to apologise for is…yep, you’ve guessed it, something my rapist did. So yes, it fucking hurts like fuck to see you turning around on this.

I say these things so they will sink in to me and I can believe them too, after the huge setback you provoked this morning. I know them to be true, and I know they will break through and become truths to me once again as this triggered feeling passes.

Meanwhile, I want something positive to come from this destruction of me this morning. I offer my hand, sincerely, in helping you to avoid hurting survivors in this way again, because it’s not just me who feels this way. I will come in and talk to you, I will work with you on these topics. I offer my hand in friendship, because I feel like you were integral to helping me recover, and I don’t want to see you slip under and become an organisation that does more harm than good.

Before that can happen, I need to know that you’ve read this and understood it. I need to know that you’ve realised you’ve fucked up quite seriously. From there, perhaps we can heal. I’d like for that to happen, because it would help me heal, too.

Update 11.13am 2/3/15: RASASC_London have offered to engage by telephone. I’ve replied that this isn’t possible for me, and asked them to send me an email. I await their response.

13.30 2/3/15: RASASC and I have arranged to discuss this issue this evening by email. I will keep you abreast as to how it goes.

18.30 2/3/15: I was emailed by the tweeter from RASASC opening the lines of communication. She offered a heartfelt apology which I accept. Right now, I’m holding off replying fully because I want my thinking to be clear. I’m also aware I have decentred the issue of transmisogyny in support provision onto myself, and I want to talk to trans women about the problem and what you want to happen. If you’re a trans woman survivor, please email me with your thoughts. Thank you, everyone.

3/3/15, 10.30: I received another email from RASASC which makes me less optimistic, reiterating their demand that I apologise. RASASC also tweeted the text of yesterday’s email, again publicly demanding that I apologise. I have storified my response in tweets to this. I am very disappointed that this has happened, especially given how positive I felt yesterday. I am still clinging on to hope that this can be resolved, and that resolution must include justice for trans women survivors.


23 responses to “An open letter to Rape Crisis South London from a devastated survivor

  • Jenny

    Have you ever considered your’re just a self righteous asshole?

  • Janet

    I believe you should seek help. But at a psychologist’s. No one can be as pathologically narcissistic and cruel without having a certifiable disorder. Good luck.

  • Mary

    It’s terrible, when trans women aren’t called women but “individuals”, or when women and female obviously means all women and female group members, except those who are trans.

    Though of course the question’s (should trans women be invited in “women only trauma recovery places”?) is besides the point because a trans woman who joins a survivor support group that treats her that way would get retraumatised by her fellow group members, so it’s not so much a question of protecting the other women but of protecting her from them😦

    But thanks for speaking up, seriously.

  • karaconnor

    Some if the comments reinforce the fact that you were right, and courageous, to speak out. Suspiciously TERF-like language Sorry you went through that, and the rape.

  • Lisa J.

    Did you read the article yet? You’ll find it was deeply personal and advocated simply for people to admit there *is* a debate about this. She also suggested perhaps trans women could discuss their trauma in trans-only spaces, and there’s much that non-trans women won’t understand about their lived experiences. You’re fretting over someone simply stating that the debate exists. Not everyone can go with the hivemind, that’s the damaging thing here. You can’t frighten people into obedience.

    • stavvers

      I did read the article in the end. She advocated for segregating survivors based on spurious reasons related to genitals.

      And that’s transmisogynistic and related to rapist logic.

      Also, this “lived experience” line is a nonsense. Every rape is different. Every survivor’s experience is different. That’s something groups acknowledge. And precisely why trans and cis women can occupy the same spaces

    • impish

      There isn’t a “debate”. There are many documented cases of trans women dying of exposure after being refused help from women’s shelters (usually specifically *homeless* women’s shelters, but it’s the same argument). It’s not some theoretical academic debate, it’s murder.

      Saying we should just go to “trans-only spaces” is saying to let us eat cake! There practically none, as you well know. I defy you to find five trans-women-only shelters in the same country.

      I also wonder how exactly you plan to eject and ban trans women based on genitalia. Well, that’s a lie, I know exactly how. After all, it’s not like being at a crisis shelter ever involves showing other women your genitals. No, you want crotch checks, like your kind always fucking do. You want to sexually assault us one last time before murdering us.

      You probably fool the libfems. I bet plenty of “allies” read your comment thinking you’re such a good compassionate ally who really cares about trans women, and so reasonable and thoughtful compared to us angry tr*****s. But you’re transparent. I see you, murderer.

  • Rosa Roberts

    You started it, Zoe. You chose to lash out viciously at a fellow survivor who did nothing to you. There’s no excuse for what you said to Rachel. You went for the jugular without a thought to how you might traumatize her, and you have the nerve to whine about feeling “devastated”? Grow up and get the psychiatric help you so badly need.

    You and your fellow SJWs simply feed off each others’ narcissistic rage. You think if you pronounce someone a TERF you may attack them with impunity. Considering that you nutty identity fetishists are a tiny minority of the population, you’d better think twice about the precedents you set. They may one day be used against you.

    Good on RASASC for addressing your malicious temper tantrum. I’m sending them a donation right now.

    • stavvers

      Caught out there sockpuppeting!

    • oolon

      “SJWs” eh? Why is it “GamerGate”/ MRAs and TERFs all use the same language. BTW linking to your facebook that “likes” a TERF page called “Stop Trans Chauvinism” isn’t helping your case. It’s clearly a sock for someone who at least has the self awareness to not be open about their bigotry, for that I commend you.

  • mauswell

    Transmisogynists need to get out of any discourse, especially rape. I’m sorry you were so let down by Rape Crisis, and I think it was great you spoke out against them.

  • magicpoppy

    You started it, Zoe. You chose to lash out viciously at a fellow survivor who did nothing to you. You went for the jugular without a thought to how you might traumatize her, and you have the nerve to whine about feeling “devastated”? You clearly wanted to hurt Rachel, and comparing a survivor to a rapist is the lowest blow imaginable. Grow up and get the psychiatric help you so badly need.

    You and your fellow SJWs simply feed off each others’ narcissistic rage. You think if you pronounce someone a TERF you may attack them with impunity. Considering that you nutty identity fetishists are a tiny minority of the population, you’d better think twice about the precedents you set. They may one day be used against you.

    Good on RASASC for addressing your malicious temper tantrum. I’m sending them a donation right now.

  • mhairi

    From Hewitt’s article…

    “A question that troubles me is this: should female-only rape support groups be inclusive of trans (male-to-female) women? Is it relevant whether such individuals have undergone reassignment surgery, whether they retain intact male genitalia, whether they live part-time as women and part-time as men, or whether they present full-time as men but identify as women? If a line is to be drawn, where?”

    This I think is a key question, and is actually at the heart of a lot of the heat over women’s spaces.

    Take a look at this.

    This is Kirk Sneade
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1da4HEwWS5ZT4X_tvZWlMQUzxm99Q1p6zj3aE9_6-Ats/mobilebasic?pli=1

    I’m sure (at least I sincerely hope) that you would in this case agree with me that Kirk Sneade is not a woman, but a rather creepy man, despite stating that he self-identifies as a woman.

    Now yes, this is all jolly good rugger-bugger fun, haw-haw-haw.

    But in the context of survivors of sexual violence, accepting anyone into women only spaces on the basis that they state that they are a woman, while presenting as a man is problematic…cos creeps. Now yes, there are women who are also creeps, and yes, it is theoretically possible that a woman may gatecrash a survivors session to get off on it. But given that over 90% of sexual violence is perpetrated by men, its hard to see how they would do that.

    Moreover, a high proportion of women survivors of sexual violence are wary of men, particularly wary of talking about their experiences around them, which is why the police and other services are encouraged to use women when documenting sexual crimes.

    Going to a support group that you have specifically selected as being gender exclusive to find someone there who presents as a man would be inhibiting for many. *Even if* that person was indeed a trans woman who chose – for whatever reasons – to present as a man.

    This is a discussion that needs aired, and it goes beyond just survivor spaces. Increasingly I’m seeing “women only” spaces transmute into “gender oppressed” spaces. While I think that gender oppressed spaces have their place, I also think that women only spaces are necessary, moreover I think we do trans women a great disservice by encouraging all and any gender varient people into spaces where they are welcome, and leaving women only spaces to be dominated by trans exclusive women.

    I’ve heard of young trans women in particular finding gender oppressed spaces hostile because of being hit on by older people who present as men, but who identify as gendervarient/genderqueer/genderfluid (ie not women) and speculating that they attract “chasers”.

    This *is* something that needs discussed.

    • stavvers

      Since when was it ok to deny women support because of something men have done?

      Who else should we ban? hairy women? tall women? Butch women? This is where this line of questioning leads.

      • Jo

        I was thinking about that, too, because by this logic, I could be excluded from a group because I’m a lesbian and make other women “uncomfortable” because I look at women “the way a man would”!

        And the thing is, this totally happens! Het women ARE made uncomfortable by lesbians, if they are homophobic and prejudiced and these things combine with their trauma.

        • stavvers

          Absolutely. This problem has a name: “the lavender menace”, and lesbian feminists have had to fight long and hard to gain equal access. Despite that, there’s still wibbles.

          I see this issue with exclusion of trans women as a highly related problem, and one to which we’re already seeing good work from trans feminists and I fully support it.

          • sarah

            Once we stop excluding people on the basis of what we *think* they are, then we can have services for people of whatever gender, and NB people can finally get access to services too, rather than having to pick a gender or be excluded. Which I think is a good thing🙂 I do get that some people feel they need a space for *their gender* though, which is fine but can be a subset of a larger service.
            Also, sorry you’re going through this, Zoe.

  • giliell

    I’m sorry that you have to deal with this shit and the hateful replies on top.

    As for the “topic under discussion”: They always have that ONE example where a man pretended to be a woman and abused people at a shelter. ONE. Exactly ONE.
    I am pretty sure there are way more cases where cis women abused other cis women at shelters than that. And that does not even count the cases where trans women suffered abuse at the hands of cis women at shelters.

  • Claire

    Zoe, I just want to come here and say that YOU ARE SO RIGHT, and thank you for writing this. I just want to put that here given that you’re getting so much unbelievably blinkered bs higher up in the comments (although it looks rather like most of it is from one sockpuppeting individual). Thank you again for writing this. Thank you for not shutting up.

  • aliw40

    Solidarity with you Zoe – I am cis gendered and furious with how this ‘penis orientated’ theology (if you’ll forgive the use of the word) of anti-rape activism impacts every aspect of the care given (or not) to women, and how it not only effectively embeds transmisogyny but also perpetuates harmful rape myths (‘good’ survivors and ‘bad’ survivors). It hands men more excuses; but penises don’t have brains, men do. There needs to be a conversation about this but I am so sorry you are dealing with this. x

  • Maman MaMouth

    Well it is often the case that institutions built to “help” victimes of violence do not allow victims (and are schocked) to let their anger out. Rage and anger though are also a positive way of rebuilding a victim’s self esteem, and we victims learn to direct this powerful energy towards positive goals. Be angry! Express it! And don’t let them tell in your place what you should do or not. T-O-W-A-N-D-A (fried green tomatoes)

  • surreptitious57

    Why should some women be discriminated against because they are
    perceived in some way to be different to other women just because they are lesbian or tran ? Would it be acceptable to discriminate against black women or brown women in the same way ? Of course not and so neither should it be so in any other way either

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