(By JL)

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 I had withdrawn from everyone in my  life at the time that I realised I needed some kind of assistance.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.