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Stonewall and nfpSynergy report into professional experiences

  • nfpSynergy spoke to representatives from 15 organisations across Britain

  • Many participants say reform of the Gender Recognition Act would have no relevance to how they deliver their services

  • Report follows intense speculation on the impact of reform to the Gender Recognition Act

A report looking at the experiences of professionals delivering support to trans women in domestic and sexual violence services is released (Tuesday, 31 July 2018).

The qualitative research, conducted by nfpSynergy, is based on in-depth interviews with representatives from 15 organisations across England, Scotland and Wales.

Key findings show:

  • Domestic and sexual violence services in England and Wales have been supporting trans women in their single-sex women-only services for some time with many taking proactive steps to ensure their services are trans-inclusive.
  • Services take a personalised, client-centred approach.
  • Many participants told us that reform of the Gender Recognition Act would have no relevance to how they deliver their services.
  • Several participants expressed concern that there are trans survivors who are being let down when seeking support, with some likening their experiences to the struggles faced by many black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women, lesbians, bi women and disabled women seeking support.

​The report was commissioned by Stonewall, in response to the intense media attention focused on inclusion of trans women in single-sex services.

Much of this reporting was sparked by the UK Government’s announcement that it would reform the Gender Recognition Act (2004).

The voices of the service providers have been largely missing from this coverage.

Suzanne Jacob OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives, said: ‘This report showcases much needed evidence from frontline practitioners about how trans victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence can access services now and in the future.

'Ensuring there is dedicated provision which recognises the severity of abuse that trans survivors face in an inclusive and responsive way must therefore be a priority for both national and local government. Everyone experiencing domestic abuse deserves to be believed and supported – whoever they are, wherever they live.

'We hope the voices and experience of trans survivors guide the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, alongside those expert domestic abuse professionals who have been supporting survivors without discrimination or hesitation for decades.’

Estelle du Boulay, Director at Rights for Women, said: ‘Domestic abuse and sexual violence are gendered issues and require support services that respond effectively to this reality. Women have worked and campaigned together in solidarity for many decades to protect women-only support services for survivors of abuse and keep women’s voices at the centre of what they do.

'As a women-only organisation that campaigns for increased legal rights and equality for women, we support self-determination and seek to be fully trans-inclusive. We welcome this report, which looks at experiences of a broad range of frontline women’s organisations across the country in relation to the support they offer transwomen.

'It shows how these vital services are responding to become more inclusive whilst continuing to uphold a safe space for all that need their services. We recognise how important it is to hear their voices in this debate.’

This research was commissioned to better understand the experiences of professionals in the field and to hear their views and approach on trans inclusion.

Representatives from the three main political parties have written forewords for this research and fully endorse the effort to gain greater evidence.

The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP (Conservative), Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee said: ‘In 2016, I was proud to lead the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s inquiry into transgender equality. Alongside fundamental changes within our healthcare, education and criminal justice systems, we concluded that reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is urgently needed.  

‘But while there is cross-party support for trans equality, misinformation is holding back progress.

‘That’s why Stonewall and nfpSynergy’s report is so important. It provides a clear, balanced account of the provision of women-only services to trans survivors. It shows us that many services already support trans women on the basis of self-identification; streamlining the legal system of gender recognition will not have an impact on the way they are able to operate.

‘As the public consultation progresses, I hope that reports such as this will be used to inform an evidence-based conversation, where everyone can be heard and treated with dignity and respect.’

Labour MP Jess Phillips said: ‘We need to remember that it is trans people who will benefit from the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Of course, there needs to be discussion and that needs to be conducted in a way that is considered and civil. The public conversation has been the exact opposite.

‘Stonewall and nfpSynergy’s report shows why it’s so important that we hear from women’s refuges and rape crisis centres, who assess the needs of the vulnerable women in their care day in, day out. In this report, they’ve shared their experiences of supporting trans women. And they talk about the ways in which all survivors need personalised support.

‘I hope that, throughout the consultation process, we continue to listen to each other and place our trust in the experts.’

Baroness Burt of Solihull, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women, said: ‘The Gender Recognition Act is in urgent need of reform. The changes we want to see introduced will simply make it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised. But we’ve seen a wave of attacks from a vocal minority in the media and online portraying these proposed changes as a threat. One often cited fear is what will happen to domestic and sexual violence services.

‘This report shines a light on the experiences of professionals whose voices have been largely missing. Opponents of reform portray scenarios that are very different from reality. It is therefore crucial we listen to services providers and hear about what is actually happening. It’s clear that their efforts to progress trans inclusion are an integral part of their work to make their services inclusive for all women.

‘Through working collaboratively, we can end this damaging speculation, and focus on building a society where all marginalised women are treated with dignity and respect.’

Read the report.