5 Steps for Improving Trans Access to Survivor Services

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.

Action: help us improve rape and sexual assault crisis centres

People often don’t think about rape and sexual assault crisis centres until they need them. But when you need them, you really need them. Whilst trans people face higher rates of rape and sexual assault than their cis counterparts, we often face significant barriers to accessing services designed to help survivors, making us all the more vulnerable.

Help us to collate a list of trans inclusive rape and sexual assault crisis centres by ringing up your local service and asking them about their policies and protocols and filling in this short form about what they say. When the services look like they are in need of trans training, we will get in touch and offer it to them. It would be good to have a look at the questions on the form before ringing. Thanks! <3

On being a trans student, and why the NUS should have a full time trans officer

Over the next couple of days, the National Union of Students’ National Conference will decide whether or not to allocate funds for a full time paid officer to work on trans issues. Jess Bradley talks about her experiences as a trans student and her involvement in the NUS, making the argument for the NUS to support trans students by voting yes to a full-time trans officer.

Content notes for: sex work, transphobia, sexual assault, outing, TERFs, vague reference to suicide

When I was 18 I started having sex with men for money. I started because, despite my having a part time job at the time, I found myself having to make the choice between eating and paying the bus fare to university. Like many trans students, I had a sometimes strained and sometimes non-existent relationship with my parents, and couldn’t ask them for help. At the time I was newly out as trans, and taking an engineering course at Bradford University. Nobody on my course would talk to me or want to work with me in group projects because I was trans. When they did, people asked me why I would do “a man’s subject like engineering if I wanted to be a woman”. Eventually, like too many trans students, I dropped out of my course.

This was a rough time for me. Fortunately for me, one of the sabbatical officers self-defined as trans and I came to them for support. We quickly became friends; if it wasn’t for them I’m not sure I would be alive today to be honest. I ended up switching over to a new course at Manchester University where I could get a bursary. I fast found a vibrant queer community there, but still struggled, almost failing and dropping out of this course after I was sexually assaulted on campus one too many times.

Still, I scraped through my undergrad and managed to get onto a masters course. In the first week of term, Julie Bindel was scheduled to turn up for an event on campus. I wrote a facebook status about it, which the university newspaper stole it as a quote; outing me as both trans and a sex worker to 80,000 students across Manchester at 3 different institutions without my consent. Now I am a PhD student at the same institution, and occasionally teach undergraduates. I wonder how many of them had read that newspaper article, and how many have connected their teacher with the sensationalist things that were written about me.

I consider myself pretty privileged; my experiences as a trans student are in no way unique nor are they uncommon, and many of my trans peers haven’t got into further or higher education because of the transphobia they face. During my time as a student I have been an active member of the NUS LGBT Campaign, because I want to use the privilege I have to open the doors for more trans people to get into education.

The NUS LGBT Campaign does some fantastic work for trans students, but I still feel like an outsider within the campaign sometimes. I’ve seen a lot of transphobia within the campaign in my time, and there a still a lot of barrier for trans people who want to get involved. Each year it feels like it’s a gamble as to whether the campaign will take trans issues seriously, or be able to understand our issues properly, as there is no guaranteed full time officer representing trans students.

I’m not suggesting that what happened to me would not have happened if there was a full time trans officer, simply that trans students on our campuses and in our communities need more support. And that support needs to come from someone who is trans, someone who understands our issues, and has the resources and support to focus on our issues all year round. So, if you are at the NUS National Conference this year, please act in solidarity with trans students and vote for a full time trans students officer. Thankyou.