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Rape is not a woman’s crime, that is why women need single sex spaces.

Rape is not a woman’s crime. This a statement that you could be forgiven for thinking is obvious. In Scot’s law rape can only be committed by someone with a penis. Until 2018 it was widely accepted that this meant a human being born a male, with male genitals. In 2008, during the consultation on the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill, Rape Crisis Scotland supported, “the definition of rape outlined in the bill”, which was;


“If a person (“A”), with A’s penis—

(a) without another person (“B”) consenting, and

(b) without any reasonable belief that B consents,

penetrates to any extent, either intending to do so or reckless as to whether there is penetration, the vagina, anus or mouth of B then A commits an offence, to be known as the offence of rape.”


It is therefore understandable that it was generally accepted that rape is not a woman’s crime. Perpetrators have been convicted on this basis, crime statistics have been collated on this basis and those who have been raped, the vast majority of whom are women, have been supported on this basis. In other words it has been widely known that rape is a man’s crime.

In recent years however gender ideology has challenged this definition. The law remains the same, rape is a crime committed by non-consensual penetration by a penis. Who is on the end of that penis however is now up for debate. For gender ideologists if a male bodied person, i.e. has a penis, identifies as a woman this, according to them, should be respected, as should their identity when recording any crime they commit. In court the survivor of the rape is also expected to respect the rapist’s pronouns and refer to them as she / her, effectively gaslighting women into denying what they know to be true. What difference does this make? Does it really make a difference what gender a rapist identifies as?


It could be said that Rape Crisis Scotland, and others, once believed that it did make a difference, as can be seen by the response to the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill and their delivery of single sex services since the 1970s. Their single sex service provision was reinforced when sex was included as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010. In general the violence against women sector’s feminist approach was seen as vital to the support provided by organisations, such as Rape Crisis.


This was a recognition of the power dynamics at play in violence against women and is vital to the support of women to recover from their experiences. The guilt and shame carried by survivors is influenced by a society that continues to blame them in some form for the behaviour or perpetrators. Where women and girls have less resources and options for safety, the more they are blamed. This was seen in Rotherham and Rochdale. It is seen in the continuing refusal to convict men who exploit women through prostitution. It is seen in low conviction rates and even lower levels of reporting to the police in the first place.


As Florence Germain said in “Woman to Woman An Oral History of Rape Crisis in Scotland 1976 – 1991” (Ed. Maitland, E. 2009, Rape Crisis Scotland)


“The position of women is pretty appalling in so many, many countries and because on the whole…power is held by men…men will see the world in a particular kind of way, but the problem is I mean they want to impose that as being the way, and it’s just one way of looking at things or indeed doing things…and it’s wanting to hold on to that power by any means.” (p. 99).


In fact women’s experience of inequality, or more specifically oppression, is so widely accepted that the Scottish Government’s “Equally Safe; Scotland’s Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls” quoted the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women definition, which included, ‘Gender based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of male power and privilege.”


This is important. Recognising the impact of socialisation from birth is vital, not only to understand the phenomenon of male violence against women and how to respond to it, but also why women are consistently blamed by others, and often themselves, for the torture, rape and cruelty meted out on their bodies and minds by men. Often resulting in a continuing lifetime of emotional and practical challenges. This is the reason why single sex services exist.


No-one should experience intimate and / or sexual violence and abuse, but the fact is the majority of people do are those who are born female. As the former Executive Director of UNICEF stated, “In today’s world, to be born female is to be born high risk. Every girl grows up under the threat of violence.” Nothing has changed, except it seems how we are expected to respond to it.


Single sex services do not exist because women and girls experience violence at the same rates as men. If you are male you are more likely to experience violence in the street, from other men. Single sex services exist not only to support women and children who have experienced male violence, but as part of a political movement to eradicate male violence altogether. If we do not name the perpetrators and the phenomenon that is violence against women, we can never address the fundamental root cause of this violence and abuse. Male privilege and differences in the socialisation of male and female children. This is not to say we do not provide services for all people who experience violence and abuse, but that the political context of male violence against women requires services based on sex, as recognised under the Equality Act 2010.


If there is one thing to learn from all of this it is that movement to address women’s lack of safety was, is and always should be a politically driven movement. Women recover from male violence by understanding the political context of the violence they experience, that they are not alone and it is the abuser and only the abuser that is responsible for the violence they have perpetrated. This cannot be achieved in services where the collective experience is not front and centre. If that was the case we would never have needed organisations, such as Rape Crisis in the first place and many will believe we don’t need them in the future.






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