On 27th August, 2019, Twitter user Eva Poen drew attention to a call-out for volunteers by the Devon Rape Crisis & Sexual Abuse Service.
Astoundingly for an organisation which offers help to traumatised women who have suffered male violence, its criteria for volunteers extends to 'self-identified' women.
However, only a week before this tweet appeared, the centre's appeal for volunteers asked specifically for women.
The centre was asked about the reason for this apparent sudden change in policy, but declined to discuss the matter on social media.
Twitter user, Wren, was one of many women on Twitter explaining why this change to a self ID policy is potentially extremely hazardous.
Poppy, someone who had previously been helped by Devon Rape Crisis, also made that shockingly clear.
We asked Poppy for a statement:
It was hugely important to me that DRC offered a women only space. When I called them I was only just beginning to comprehend what had happened to me and I was hoping to try and make some sense of it.
There is absolutely no way that I would have felt happy discussing what happened with a male. If a male voice had answered the phone when I called, there is no doubt in my mind that I would’ve hung up. I can’t stress quite how much DRC helped me. I had withdrawn from everyone in my life at the time that I realised I needed some kind of assistance. It took an awful lot for me come to the decision to call them - I generally consider myself a robust, independent person and that was hugely at odds with the fact that I was a rape victim. If I had called and then hung up I don’t think that I would’ve sought help elsewhere. It took a long time and a lot of help from DRC for me to start feeling like the person I used to be again. It sounds melodramatic to say that they saved my life but they certainly saved my sanity.
I feel angry more than anything at their decision to invite ‘self-identified’ women to volunteer with them. I don’t understand who it is supposed to benefit. I’m also confused as it is so at odds with the help that I received. The woman that helped me was absolutely wonderful, took no shit from anyone and I can’t possibly imagine her putting up with this. If DRC is losing volunteers like my contact due to these policies then it’s a total outrage.
I think a lot of women will simply not use these services if they don’t know that their first point of contact will be a woman. I can only speak for myself but if I hadn’t been able to access DRC (and if a man had answered my first phone call I wouldn’t have) I certainly wouldn’t have informed the police and would not have been brave enough to seek advice or help elsewhere.
The man who attacked me was a childhood friend. I had absolutely no inkling that he would even contemplate raping me. It was so bizarrely out of character that I almost convinced myself that I’d imagined it. He had once told a group of us that he enjoyed watching rape porn and all we did in reaction to that was to nickname him ‘Rapey Pete’ (not his name obviously). He emailed me a few days later apologising for ‘going too far’ and saying he hoped we could still be friends. Also that he was sorry that he stretched my pants by wearing them and asking me if I wanted them back. Despite this there was not enough evidence to proceed with a prosecution. The email was part of a long chain and in one of them I’d apologised for not getting back to him earlier. This somehow cancelled out his ‘sorry for raping you’ email.
I found out a year or so later that he was living full time as a woman and has a girlfriend. He’s incredibly loud on social media and will do absolutely anything for attention. This, in combination with the fact that he’s a rapist makes me genuinely concerned he will apply for this volunteer position. I was hoping that my tweeting about it might discourage him but I think he’s probably narcissistic enough to do it even so.
I feel horrified at the thought that he could be accessing female spaces. I’m assuming he already uses women’s bathrooms as he is living as a woman. This man is so, so dangerous and I truly believe he would play a very long game if it meant he’d get access to vulnerable women. I don’t believe that he’s the only TW who would take advantage of female spaces. I feel so helpless that we have to sit back and wait for women to be raped, assaulted or secretly filmed by perverts under the guise of TW before people start to realise it’s a bad idea.
I just don’t understand why anyone would applaud DRC inviting self-identified women to volunteer. Who does it benefit? What kind of TW would feel that it’s an appropriate place for them to volunteer? They know that a significant proportion of these highly distressed women will be further distressed by the presence of a biological man. It’s such unbelievable narcissism to put their own validation above the safety of traumatised women.