Transgender people face alarmingly high rates of sexual violence yet most trans victims cannot access any kind of support services in the aftermath. This post by Pazuzu Gaylord aims to outline areas where sexual violence survivor services are failing trans people and ways in which we can work to improve them.
1: Training and Advocacy
Groundbreaking research into the provision of survivor services for trans people conducted by the Survivors Network revealed that nearly all of the trans survivors who were surveyed were afraid of transphobic discrimination from the staff who were supposed to be helping them.
Action for Trans Health offer training to healthcare professionals on making services trans inclusive which could be adapted for working with survivor services. We are currently developing an advocacy service to offer individual support to trans people accessing healthcare services which will also be useful.
2: Media and Resources
Currently, most promotional media and resources produced by survivor support organisations discriminate against trans people both explicitly in the ways that they gender people’s anatomies and implicitly in how information is given and withheld based on these assumptions.
There are some examples of good trans inclusive literature, such as the LGBT Foundation’s leaflet for trans survivors of sexual violence, these can be used as a template for improving other resources. The lessons taken from trans specific literature need to be integrated into all resources, including female and male specific ones. Trans specific leaflets should be made widely, openly available without survivors having to personally ask for them.
3: Creating Specialist Trans Services
There is a desperate need for trans specific survivor services, both to deal with the total absence of services available to non-binary survivors and to provide a space for other trans survivors who are uncomfortable with using single-gender services.
4: Publicity and Locality
Where trans inclusive services exist their profile needs to be raised so that they may reach the people who need them. Action for Trans Health are working on a list of trans inclusive rape and sexual assault crisis centres, you can help us with our research here.
More outreach from survivor support organisations to trans communities is needed, forming links with organisations and individuals who are already well established in trans communities can help to build trust in services. Producing explicitly trans inclusive media and resources is another part of this.
Ideally services should be locally available but given the current rarity of trans inclusive services travel bursaries could be a small immediate way of improving access.
5: Wider Tackling of Transphobia and Rape Culture
Trans people learn to fear using public services through repeated direct experiences of discrimination from public and private sector organisations. These experiences are widespread across all kinds of services. Societal stigma towards victims of sexual violence also contributes to feelings of shame which dissuade survivors from talking about their experiences and seeking support.
Attitudes which blame trans survivors for the violence we suffer must be confronted wherever they occur and knowledge on consent and trans issues needs to be actively promoted. This education is vital not only to make survivors feel more able to access services but to reduce the prolific violence which makes survivor services necessary in the first place.
Members of Action for Trans Health are currently working with Project Salvage on research into gendered harm in activist communities and a series of workshops on how to better identify and address these problems.