(This is primarily about learning to live with infertility.)
Happy 40th birthday. Except it really isn’t. The phone call yesterday took away that possibility. The phone call that was the endpoint of weeks and months of tests and drugs and gynecological examinations and surgery. First the pathway to IVF treatment of heavy duty hormones to regulate your periods which were never irregular anyway and which made you emotionally unstable for months. Though that wasn’t really first, because it followed years of trying to get pregnant the way that most people do – sex whether either or both of you wanted it or not because it was that time of the month and the tests said fertile window. Then the follicle stimulating drugs that you had to inject into your stomach to force your body to produce extra eggs where you were dangerously over-treated to the point that your abdomen hurt when you walked. Then the euphemistically named ‘eggs harvesting’ when they didn’t give you enough sedative so you partly came round mid-surgery, aware of the blood and in terrible pain but unable to move or speak on the operating table, desperately trying to let them know you were conscious. But – great news – your body had produced 28 eggs (way more than it safely should have) and at least seven were suitable for fertilisation. Might you want two or three to be implanted when they fertilised? Sure, twins would be a challenge but how exciting. Might you want to freeze some, just in case? ‘We’ll ring you tomorrow to tell you how many have fertilised.’
I can still see you answering the phone. ‘We’re sorry, zero fertilisation.’ That’s it. Done. No return to the clinic for the embryos to be put in your womb. No ‘two-week wait’ to see if they implanted, to see if you will be pregnant. You’ll call your partner, hardly able to speak with the grief and ask him to come home to be with you.
That was your one and only shot on the NHS. What will follow is three more privately funded attempts. You will know that you are ‘lucky’ to be able to do this, to have some paltry savings to plunder, a home to remortgage and a job and credit history that permitted you to get into debt.
You will become pregnant once. Elated you will buy a ‘you and your pregnancy’ book. You will never get beyond the stage when the foetus is as big as a kidney bean. You will sit in the sunshine on the stone steps to the office, sobbing after you’ve seen the blood in your pants. You will hit lows that you have not anticipated. You will become depressed, but you won’t take medication because it might affect a pregnancy. You will forever hate the acronym PMA and the phrase it stands for: ‘positive mental attitude.’ The book will go in the bin. You will come to believe that hope is the most cruel of emotions.
The fourth time will be the last. You don’t expect it to work but you want to know that you took it as far as you could. You need to stop hoping.
You are the oldest of six half-siblings with two step-siblings and six parents between you (it’s complicated); the oldest cousin of 25 from one set of grandparents alone. You have worked in busy women’s refuges bulging with women and their children. You’ve always been surrounded by children and always been remarked upon as ‘a natural’, you knew you weren’t, you’d just been trained since birth. You have always enjoyed children but will come to find their presence unbearably painful. Nothing more than a reminder of what you cannot have. You’ll feel stuck – what’s the template for long-term relationships, where is the evolution when you don’t become parents?
You will not be supported at work, in fact your line manager will use your vulnerability against you. You will walk out of your job with nothing to go to next. And it will be a blessed relief. You will be able to burn your fertility medical notes in the garden incinerator before you are able to burn your work supervision and appraisal notes. You will tell yourself that the break will be a chance to re-evaluate and decide if working in organisations supporting women subjected to men’s violence is what you really want to do. You will find that it is, that nothing else feels right. You will get a job as CEO of a fantastic organisation. It will be wonderful and sometimes hellish as funding crises threaten its viability, there will be times when you really don’t think there’s a way out, but with the board, and the senior management team, you will manage to find a way through. The commitment of the staff team and the horrors that they face in their day to day work will humble you. The strength of women subjected to men’s violence will inspire and motivate you. A young woman that you have never met will be killed by the ex- boyfriend she was trying to leave and she will change your life. You will start to count dead women and you will record their names.
You will struggle with the concept of ‘mother privilege’. You know that reproduction has been weaponised as one of the main tools of the oppression of women, you can clearly see the many and wide-ranging negative impacts on other women. You can even empathise when they describe the difficulties the endure, but you are deeply jealous and wish that you faced some of those difficulties. You watch other women battle over the concept. You mainly keep quiet. You can see both sides and admitting to either feels like a betrayal of the other.
One day, a Saturday morning just over four years after that phone call, you will read an article in the paper about a woman who has recently set up a support group for women who are struggling to come to terms with childlessness. You’re probably still sobbing when you send the email trying to find out how and whether you can take part. A few weeks later you will find yourself one of a small group of involuntarily childless women about to undertake a 10-week one-evening-a-week set of group work sessions. You will feel surprised when you hear yourself tell the group that being passed a baby feels like being passed poison to you, that you automatically recoil, that this is who you have become. You’ll go to the group and you will struggle with the concept of finding a ‘Plan B’, because your life is okay, your ‘Plan A’, which was never really a plan but just what happened is fine, except you’re not raising a family. One session, you are asked to think about the things you used to say to yourself that might have stopped you doing or achieving what you wanted. You realise that you still do this. You say no to things that you think are not for someone like you, that someone else can probably do better. You recognise that these are bound in your social and sex class socialisation. You resolve to start to say yes. Outside of this, you won’t be able to pin down how or why the group helped you, except it is very clear that it did. Something shifts.
People will continue to say thoughtless things. They’ll ask if you’ve thought of adoption or tell you that they understand because it took them some time to conceive, but it stops being so painful. The people who do will sometimes surprise you, as will those who show empathy and support that you would not have expected. You will lose friends, sometimes because they can’t be there for you, sometimes because you can’t be there for them. You will let them go, sometimes with sadness but always with acceptance and you will wish them well. Some will stay with you and you will make new ones and they will become a genuine source of joy, love and sustenance in your life. Your relationship with your partner will adapt and grow. The notion of ‘once in a lifetime holidays’ loses meaning as you get opportunities to visit places you thought that you never would and places that you’d never even heard of before. You’ll begin to love to travel and your partner will be the perfect travelling companion and much more.
You will start a PhD. Haha, yes, really. I still don’t know whether you’ll complete or pass it – but you might. One of the reasons that you started was because you were worried that what you said wouldn’t have any validity without it, but you will also come to see that academic tail-chasing can stop people from taking action. You will realise that you have something to say about men’s violence against women. Women and feminism will bring so much to your life.
You will see your brothers and sisters and many cousins many photos of their many children on facebook and you will no longer need to hide or unfollow them. You’ll feel the joy of being part of a big family again but you will regret that they are so far away. You will see your contemporaries become grandmothers and though it will be bittersweet, your smiles for them will be genuine. You will still wonder what old age will hold when you don’t have a family of your own to accompany you through it.
Your unconscious mind will remind you every year of that phone call and the miscarriage, you’ll feel a strange cold hollow that you can’t explain until you remember, but it gets easier. You won’t remember the last time you cried about your childlessness and even though you know it will not have been the last time, that will be okay.
You will notice that you have slowly begun to accept that the ‘surprise pregnancy when you had stopped trying’ is not going to happen to you. You are too old. You will not be defined by your infertility, even though it will always be part of you.
You will never know why.
You will love your mardy cat too much. You will enjoy and value your life. It will feel full and fulfilling. You will be happy. Sometimes you will even wonder whether it’s better this way. It’s fine not knowing.
At least 38 UK women have been killed by men (or where a man is the principal suspect):
- 1 January 2019: Charlotte Huggins, 33 was stabbed in the early hours of New Year’s Day. Michael Rolle has been charged with her murder.
- 1 January 2019: Jay Edmunds, 27, was killed in a house fire which killed three people. Police have said that had he been alive, Ashley Martin, 32, who died in the same fire would have been treated as a suspect for the murder of the two other people.
- 4 January 2019: Simbiso Aretha Moula, 39, was found dead with her husband Garikayi Moula, 51. Police believe she was strangled by him after which he hanged himself.
- 5 January 2019: Sarah Ashraf, 35, was found dead at home. Her brother, Khalid Ashraf, 32, has been charged with her murder.
- 11 January 2019: Asma Begum, 31, died of a neck injury. Jalal Uddin, 46, has been charged with her murder.
- 12 January 2019: Luz Margory Isaza Villegas, 50, was last seen alive. Her body was found a week later. Her husband Rodrigo Tascon, 55, has been charged with murder and preventing a proper burial.
- 14 January 2019: Leanne Unsworth, 40, died of head injuries. Shaun Sanders, 39, has been charged with her murder.
- 15 January 2019: Christy Walshe, 40, was shot in the face. Michael Strudwick, 33, has been charged with her murder and possession of a firearm.
- 16 January 2019: Alison Hunt, 42, was stabbed to death. Vernon Holmes, 47, has been charged with her murder.
- 22 January 2019: Mary Annie Sowerby, 69, known as Annie, was found seriously injured and died from her injuries. Her son, Lee Sowerby, 40, has been charged with her murder.
- 27 January 2019: Margaret Smyth, 29, known as Maggie, was missing for six days before police found her body. A 39-year old man has been charged with her murder.
- 1 February 2019: Mary Page, 68, was found dead at home with a head injury. Her son, Mathew Page, 40, has been charged with her murder.
- 1-2 February 2019: Antoinette Donnegan, 52, was found strangled on 7 March but it is believed she was killed 5 weeks before. A post-mortem found she had seven broken ribs, a deep gash to her head, and had been strangled by clothing. Kristian Smith, 41, has been charged with her murder.
- 7 February 2019: Rosie Derbyshire, 27, died from serious head injuries. Benjamin Topping, 25, said to be her boyfriend, has been charged with her murder.
- 8 February 2019: Aliny Mendes, 39, was stabbed to death. Her estranged husband, Ricardo Godinho, 41, has been charged with her murder.
- 11 February 2019: Sarah Henshaw, 40, was found dead in Leeds. Shortly afterward, a man reportedly fell from a bridge and was being treated in hospital prior to being questioned in relation to her death.
- 14 February 2019: Dorothy Bowyer, 77, was found dead. William Blundson, 23, has been charged with her murder and criminal damage.
- 15 February 2019: A 73-year old woman who has not yet been named died 11 days after being mugged. Marius Lucian, 21 and a 15-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons have been charged with two counts of robbery, assault with intent to commit robbery and manslaughter. Two other women were also attacked.
- 25 February 2019: Jodi Miller, 21, was found with serious injuries and died after being taken to hospital. Kahar Ali, 29, has been charged with her murder.
- 1 March 2019: Jodie Chesney, 17, was stabbed in the back whilst walking through a park with friends. Manuel Petrovic, 20, has been charged with murder.
- 2 March 2019: Elize Stevens, 50, was stabbed to death. Ian Levy, 54, has been charged in relation to her death.
- 6 March 2019: Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, 34, was found in a shallow grave in her garden in west London. She had been strangled. Her ex-boyfriend Kirill Belorusov, 32, was arrested in Estonia on 13 March and was being held in by police before extradition proceedings are completed.
- 7 March 2019: Giselle Marimon-Herrera, 37 and her 15-year-old daughter Allison, were found dead. Police have said that Allison was strangled and there was a “strong possibility” her mother had died in the same way. Russell Steele, 38, said to be Giselle’s partner is believed to killed them before hanging himself.
- 7 March 2019: (see above) Allison Marimon-Herrera, 15 and her 37-year-old mother, Giselle, were found dead. Police have said that Allison was strangled and there was a “strong possibility” her mother had died in the same way. Russell Steele, 38, said to be Giselle’s partner is believed to killed them before hanging himself.
- 9 March 2019: Lalal Kamara, 26, was found dead in a flat in Denton, Greater Manchester. Mustapha Dia, 21, has been charged with her murder.
- 10 March 2019: Alice Morrow, 53, was found dead following an assault. William Hutchinson, 42, has been charged with her murder.
- 17 March 2019: Rachel Evans, 46, was found dead. Carl Harrison, 42, pleaded guilty to her murder, assault by beating and making threats to kill.
- 20 March 2019: Alison McKenzie, 55, was found dead. Ian McKenzie, 34, who is said to be her son, has been charged with her murder.
- 27 March 2019: Barbara Heywood, 80, was stabbed to death. An 88-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of her murder and later detained under the Mental Health Act.
- 2 April 2019: Paula Meadows, 83, was found dead at home. Her 84-year-old husband, Tony Meadows is believed to have killed her before killing himself.
- 9 April 2019: Anna Reed, 22, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, was found dead in Switzerland, A most mortem revealed that she died from asphyxiation and had small fractures and cuts on her body. Swiss police have reported that her boyfriend Marc Schatzle, 29, has been formally accused of intentional murder.
- 17 April 2019: Sarah Fuller, 35, was found dead by police, she had been strangled. Her partner Jason Carr, 35, has been charged with her murder.
- 20 April 2019: Megan Newton, 18, was found dead. Joseph Trevor, 18, has been charged with her murder.
- 21 April 2019: Leah Fray, 27, was found dead in a burning flat. Curtis Moyse, 18, has been charged with murder, rape and arson.
- 23 April 2019: Siama Riaz, 33, was found dead after police were called to attend to a stabbing. Mohammed Choudhry, 36, has been charged with murder.
- 23 April 2019: Sammy-Lee Lodwig, 22, was found stabbed to death at home. Jason Farrell, 49, has been charged with her murder.
- 26 April 2019: Amy Parsons, 35, was found dead. Her partner, Roderick Deakin-White, 37,has been charged with her murder.
- 3 May 2019: Ellie Gould, 17, was stabbed. A 17-year-old male has been acharged with her murder.
Waiting for further information regarding the deaths of Ruth Greenhough, Alim Shimeni, Regina Marilyn Paul, Annabelle Lancaster, Anastaszja Plusa, Debbie Twist and Lauren Griffiths.
In memory of Kirsty Treloar
New Year’s Day 2019 and before dawn on the first morning of the New Year a woman in her early thirties, whose name has not yet been made public, was stabbed to death in Camberwell, South London. She will be the 1,000th woman killed by a man whose name I will record on my website Counting Dead Women.
7 years ago today, 20 year-old Kirsty Treloar received a text from Miles Williams, the 19 year-old father of her not-yet 4-week old baby. The text read
“Okay wer all gud now and my new yrs ressy is that i aint going to hit u again and i won’t hit u 4 this yr next yr the yr after that the next yr after that.”
And went on to say “But I wont u to swear on (their daughter’s) life u wont p.ss me off and do things to make me angry love you 4 eva.’
Kirsty was terrified of Miles and had been trying to extricate herself from their relationship; she told him that she didn’t want to see him. She’d spent Christmas at her family home in Hackney. The next day, Kirsty paid the price of lack of compliance. Williams broke in to the house and dragged her in to a car, stabbing and wounding her sister and brother who were trying to protect her. She was later found dead, dumped beside bins some two miles away. She had been stabbed 29 times.
A few weeks before, Kirsty had been referred to nia, the charity where I work, which supports women and girls subjected to men’s violence. I was told of Kirsty’s death and looked on the internet to see if I could find out what had happened. But Kirsty wasn’t the only woman killed by a man at the start of the year, there were multiple reports of fatalities of women and so I made a note of their names because I wanted to know how many there were. It turned out that in the first three days of 2012, eight women in the UK had been killed by men : three shot, one stabbed, one strangled with a dog lead, strangled, one – a 77 year-old woman – beaten to death with her own walking stick, and an 87 year old woman battered to death with blunt force trauma by her own grandson.
Seven years and 1000 women later, I haven’t stopped recording the names of women killed by men. In reality, the number is even higher, every year there are a number of unsolved cases where women have been killed and statistically almost all of them will have been committed by men. There are cases where men appear to have played a direct role in the death of a woman but they manage to evade prosecution. I suspect there are women whose disappearance has gone unreported, or whose absence has gone unacknowledged and whose body will never be found. There are women who die of secondary causes related to long histories of abuse by men and there are women who kill themselves because that is the only route they can see to end the pain of violence and abuse.
I continued because I cannot bring myself to say that the next woman killed isn’t important. I continue because a focus on intimate partner homicides at the exclusion of other killings disguises and diminishes the true rate of men’s fatal violence against women. I continue because the killing of women by their current and former partners is so normalised that it is not recognised as a national emergency. I continue because the need for and benefits of specialist single-sex services for women victim-survivors of men’s violence are still subjected to challenge and given insufficient regard. I continue because I want someone to bear witness and commemorate our sisters. I continue because the slaying of women by men, although it has happened at least 1,000 times in seven years, continues to be described by the police and reported in the media as an ‘isolated incident.’ I continue because I believe the more we look, the more we can learn and the more effectively we can take steps to reduce men’s violence against women. I continue because I believe a different world is possible, but it is only by consciously committing to making changes that look at the multitude of factors that support and enable men’s violence against women, that will give us a hope in hell of getting there.
2 British women and a third who had lived in London for 20 years went missing abroad within 6 days. All three were found dead within 6 days.
This is Karen Cleary-Brown. She was 44 years old and had lived in Islington, N, London for 20 years. She had been missing in Jamaica since 25 November. She was found dead on 3rd December. A man who was working on her property has been charged with her murder.
This is Barbara Findley. She was 58 and from Kennington, S. London but had lived in Jamaica for the last 5 years. She was reported missing on 29 November. She was found dead on 5 December.
This is Grace Millane. She was 22 and from Essex. She went missing on 1st December whilst travelling in New Zealand. She was found dead on 9 December. A 26-year-old male, who has been granted name suppression whilst awaiting trial, has appeared in court in relation to her death.
How many of those names did you know? How many of their photos had you seen?
The killing of Grace Millane is an atrocity, but no more so than the killings of Karen Clearly-Brown and Barbara Findley, no more so than the (at least) 127 other UK women suspected to have been killed by men (or where a man or men are the principal suspects) so far this year.
Karen Cleary-Brown, Barbara Findley and Grace Millane – 3 missing women, 3 women found dead.
The killings of women who are not young, not white, not killed on holiday, not killed by a stranger should be no less shocking or upsetting. They are not less worthy of media or public attention or mourning. We need to stop the hierarchy of dead women.
This is a short clip on me on BBC World News talking about men’s fatal violence in the UK ON 26 Nov 2018.
“Trans women are suffering violence and abuse because they are trans. Over a quarter of trans people experience domestic violence and two women a week are killed by a partner in England and Wales.
So let’s look at homicide and sex differences, and homicide and trans people:
In the year ending March 2017 there were 613 recorded homicide victims and 617 recorded homicide suspects. The numbers aren’t exactly the same because sometimes there is more than one suspect and sometimes there are none.
- There were 433 male homicide victims and and 469 male suspects. That means
- 71% of victims were male
- 76 % of perpetrators were male
- There were 8% more male perpetrators than victims
- There were 180 female victims and 148 female perpetrators
- 29% of victims were female
- 24% of perpetrators were female
- There were 18% fewer female perpetrators than victims
- 50% of female victims aged 16+ were killed by a current or former partner (sex of perpetrator not specified)
- 3 % of male victims aged 16+ were killed by a current or former partner (sex of perpetrator not specified)
- Over the last decade there have been 7 homicides of trans people, all biologically male; there have been 12 homicides perpetrated trans people, all biologically male.
- There were 71% more homicides perpetrated by trans people, all biologically male, than against trans people (all biologically male).
Women are perpetrators of homicide at 18% lower rates than we are victims. Males are perpetrators of homicide at 8% greater rates than they are victims. Trans people are perpetrators of homicide at 71% greater rates than they are victims.
One woman has been killed at the hands of a man every 2.6 days in the UK since 2012. Why isn’t Amnesty International pushing the concerns of female victims of homicide in relation to proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act? Facts matter. Social policy should be based on factual information not twisted and distorted disinformation.
Why is Amnesty International appropriating commonly used (but not particularly accurate) data about female victims of intimate partner homicide to pursue a trans activist agenda?
*Usual disclaimer: Every victim of homicide is a victim. I do not celebrate a single homicide. My sympathies to the loved ones of every victim. I support universal human rights. I am a feminist with a particular interest in the wellbeing of female victims of men’s violence.
This was the speech I gave in a pub at Women’s Place’s Leeds meeting on 28 September 2018. A speech that Judith Blake, the first woman Leader of Leeds City Council, prevented me from delivering at the Civic Hall by cancelling the Woman’s Place booking.
I’ve worked in services for women who have been subjected to men’s violence for 29 years. I’m currently Chief Executive of a charity called nia – nia started as Hackney Women’s Aid in 1975 – we’re based in East London and provide services to women, girls and children who have been subjected to sexual and domestic violence – men’s violence. Our services include community based domestic violence services, East London Rape Crisis, a specialist refuge for women with problematic substance use and one for women fleeing sexual exploitation – prostitution, trafficking, grooming. That refuge is called Daria House, named after Daria Pionko, who was murdered, here in Leeds, in the so-called safe prostitution managed zone. Prostitution can never be safe.
Of course we would always work with a woman subjected to violence by a female perpetrator – but we’re talking a tiny number of cases a year, whereas every year we work face-to-face with at least 1,500 women and girls who have been subjected to men’s violence and support many more over the phone or electronically.
In addition to my day job, I run the project Counting Dead Women – commemorating women killed by men in the UK and I’m co-founder of the Femicide Census in partnership with Women’s Aid.
I started Counting Dead Women almost 7 years ago after the murder – on January 2 2012 – of a young woman in East London. Her name was Kirsty, she was 20 years old. Kirsty had been referred to nia a few weeks before she was killed. When I heard about her death, I was on annual leave at the time, I did what I think many of us here would do in similar circumstances, I took to the internet to find out more. Even though I’ve been working in the field of women affected by men’s violence for years, and Kirsty wasn’t the first woman connected to places where I’d worked who had been killed, I was perplexed by what I found, because there seemed to be report after report of women who’d been killed by men in week or so since Christmas, just so many. I made a note of their names because I wanted to figure out just how many women it was. It turned out that in the first three days of 2012 in the UK, eight women had been killed by men : three days, eight dead women: three shot, one stabbed, one strangled with a dog lead, one battered with a blunt object before she was smothered with a pillow, one – a 77 year-old woman – beaten to death with her own walking stick, and an 87 year old woman battered to death with blunt force trauma by her own grandson.
Since then, I’ve counted and named 955 women killed by men in the UK – that’s an average of one woman dead at the hands of a man every 2.5 days. I have read and absorbed the detail of each and every one of these killings of women by men. I have tried to learn something about the life and death of each woman.
I grew up in Huddersfield in the 70s and 80s. That meant growing up under the shadow of Peter Sutcliffe. I was 7 when he killed 28 year-old Wilma McCann (as far as we know, his first murder victim) 12 when he killed his last. He was charged in 1981 – when I was a few weeks shy of 13 – for murdering 13 women in less than 6 years. It’s no exaggeration to say that his violence was a formative influence. And the man I thought was my dad was violent and abusive to my mum and us kids, and there was violence and abuse in some of my friends’ early relationships too.
Men’s violence against women has been part of my life in one way or another for longer than I can remember – but I have a nice home, a partner who I love and who loves me, a good job. I know I am fortunate. Tonight, I want to talk to you about why I think women only spaces and services are essential for women and children who have been subjected to men’s violence, women who don’t benefit from the safety and security that I enjoy. Transgender ideology creates an environment that is hostile to specialist single-sex services for women who have been subjected to men’s violence and one in which women cannot set our own boundaries.
87% of rapes of adults are committed against women and women are the victim in 80% of domestic homicides.
Males on the other hand
- Males commit 78% of violent crimes recorded in England and Wales.
- Males commit 88% of intimate partner homicides
- Males commit 90% of all murders in England and Wales.
- Males commit 98% of recorded sexual offences
One of the most important ways that we can contribute to creating a ‘safe space’ for women who have experienced men’s violence ……. Is quite simply by keeping men out – it’s simple probability statistics. Men are for more likely to commit violence than women.
I’m not naive or dishonest enough to claim that women are never violent – of course some women are. But when women are violent – and remember its statistically way less frequent – when they are they are – they generally cause less harm than violent men.
So let’s move on to look at males who identify as trans
There is no credible evidence suggesting that males who identify as trans commit violence against women at lower rates than those who do not. In fact, evidence suggests that trans identified males commit violent crimes at rates comparable to men. I’m not saying that men who identify as transgender are inherently violent or that all trans identified males are violent – just that they are no less violent that other males.
Despite claims to the contrary, Gender Recognition Certificates and/or identification as trans does not reduce men’s violence. They don’t magic away male socialisation. Self –declaration, even worse, would mean that any man who says he is a woman would be able to access specialist services for women subjected to men’s violence, unless those services understand how to and have the guts to apply Equality Act Exemptions – and there is serious pressure which prevents many, if not most, from doing this.
Some say that ‘we’ – those of us working is specialist women’s services – can use risk assessments to assess whether a male who says he is trans poses a risk to women.
Let’s look at this in relation to women’s refuges:
When a risk assessment is completed with a woman looking to move in to a refuge, time is critical, you need to help her to get to a place of safety and quickly. She’s either already left her home or is planning to do so urgently because she is in danger. With risk assessment, you’re assessing the risk she is facing from her partner, planning how she can reduce risks associated with actually leaving, whether the location of the refuge offers safety and whether she herself would pose a risk to others living in the refuge. Not whether or not she is actually a violent male.
If you expect refuges to accommodate males who identify as trans, you’re asking staff in women’s refuges to differentiate between
- Transgender people born male who have genuinely experienced men’s violence and have managed to unpick their male socialisation and who will not use their sense of male entitlement or sexism or misogyny to harm, reduce and control women in the refuge and
- those transgender people born male who have genuinely experienced violence but are still dripping in male privilege and advantage and who hate or resent women; and
- those transgender people born male who are narcissistic perpetrators who have managed to convince themselves (and others) that they are victims
- those transgender people born male who are fetishists and
- men who are pretending to be trans in order to track down a particular woman or access women in general
Why should we be put in this position? Why should women and children who have experienced men’s violence be put in that position? Why is prioritising the needs of women who have been subjected to men’s violence a problem?
Refuges and other specialist women’s services as women-only spaces, offer not only a physical, but also a psychological and emotional escape from men’s domination, control and violence:
- Away from the specific man that they are escaping or who has violated them
- Away from men in general
- Away from men’s control and demands for attention
- Away from the male gaze and their judgement of women
- A space where women share in common experiences of abuse – despite all the other differences between us
Women tell us that they want and value women-only space for safety, empathy, trust, comfort, a focus on women’s needs, expertise, confidence, and because they’re less intimidating. Women say that a women only space has been an essential part of their recovery from men’s violence and that that being with women who have had similar experiences is a vital part of accepting that they are not to blame.
At least 80% of males who identify as trans retain a penis. Do adult penises belong on women’s refuges and Rape Crisis centres? Do adult penises belong in women’s prisons? Most women in prison have been victims of crimes far more serious than those for which they were convicted and the majority have been subjected to men’s violence.
Many of the women and children we work with are terrified of males. They will – like most of us – almost always instantly read someone who might be the most kind and gentle trans identified male in the world – as male – and they may experience terror immediately and involuntarily. They need and deserve a break.
Women are gas-lighted(manipulated to question their own sanity) by their abusive male partners all the time, it is furthering the abuse to then expect then to share women-only spaces with males who say that they are women because they are not. The Gender Recognition Act has created what has been described by Professor Kathleen Stock as a legal fiction – males can be recognised as women under the law, but it doesn’t mean that they really are women. Some people might choose to use preferred pronouns as a sign of courtesy to trans people – but it doesn’t mean that they all believe a person can change sex. A person cannot change sex. It undermines our ability to help women believe in themselves if we put them in positions where we expect them to believe this lie.
Some say that men will not go so far as to lie about being trans in order to access vulnerable women. Anyone who believes this has not spent much time with abusive men and has little idea of the lengths that some are prepared to go to.
- Men like retired police officer Bill Dowling, who called his ex-partner Victoria Rose to help him as – because he said – he was coughing up blood. Even though they were separated she went to help. When she arrived he shot her in the head.
- Men like Darren Sykes, who lured his 9 and 12 year old sons Paul and Jack in to the attic with the promise of a new train set. As they played with it he poured petrol round the house before setting it alight and turning the house into an inferno. His intention – lifelong mental torture of Claire Throssell, his ex-wife, mother of the two now-dead two boys.
- Men like Stephen Wood, a child abuser on remand for multiple rapes with a long record of sexual and violent offences against women and girls, who said he was trans, and despite retaining his full male genitalia was sent to New Hall Prison under the name Karen White where he assaulted 4 inmates within days of being moved in.
I know these are extreme examples, most women who experience men’s violence are not killed and most men do not kill their children – but they are illustrative of the lengths that some men are prepared to go to. And those of us who know violent men or women who have been victims of violent men know that there are too many men who would go exactly this far.
Violent men lie and manipulate. Violent men are prepared to stand in court in a witness box and lie. According to data we found for The Femicide Census, of 37 men who pleaded not guilty to murdering women in 2016, only 1 was actually found not guilty of all charges.
We are told that trans people are disproportionately victims of violence this may be true and as a human being I support efforts to reduce crime, violence, hate and discrimination against anyone. As a feminist I applaud those who reject the trappings of gender but as a feminist I cannot stand by if women are being sold out in this process. And if we look at homicide, in the last decade, in the UK, there have been 8 homicides of trans people – all biologically male; on the other hand, trans people – all of these biologically male – have killed 11, 4 of their victims were women. And in the same period, men have killed at least 1,373 women.
There are two different issues here – but both are issues that reduce the safety of women – because of the erosion of women-only space
1) Males will lie about being trans in order to access women and children and 2) males who identify as trans commit violence against women at rates akin to those of males who do not
I don’t really care which group we’re most concerned about – my concern is women – especially women who have already been subjected to men’s violence.
This is not about lack of compassion with trans people; it is not about denying anyone’s human rights, anyone’s privacy and dignity. Of course not. But it is about fighting for women’s human rights. Our right to safety, our right to life, our privacy and our dignity. It is about recognising that women have sex-based rights and protections for a reason.
Men have already killed at least 101 UK women this year. Many thousands of women have been raped. Many 1000s live with the threat of violence every day. Victim-survivors of men’s violence deserve the breather, the sanctuary, that is offered by a women only space. Of course it’s too late for the women who have been killed. . We need to fight for single sex spaces and services. Let’s not play Russian roulette with the lives of women who have already suffered men’s violence.
The fight against sexual and domestic violence and abuse has been led by women, supporting women. We wouldn’t have a network of refuges and domestic violence and abuse services or Rape Crisis centres if feminists activists and survivors (and of course many women are both) women like Sandra [McNeill] and Jalna [Hamner] who are both here tonight had not created them because they realised that we – women – needed them, and we – women – wanted to support other women facing what we have faced. And whilst women have succeeded in creating change and this has always been under threat, we are facing a new backlash. We have not yet managed to eradicate men’s violence against women – nor indeed to overthrow the patriarchy, not yet. It is our responsibility – those of us here now – to protect and fight for what our fore-sisters created and continue the legacy that helps women escape and recover from men’s violence.