World-renowned author and philanthropist JK Rowling has revealed that she has founded and funded a female-only service for survivors of sexual violence. The announcement comes just days before Nicola Sturgeon’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill is due to be passed by Scottish parliament, which will make it easier for males to change their legal sex and gain access to women’s spaces.
Rowling’s Edinburgh-based service, run by women for women, is called Beira’s Place and it is the only female-only service in the region set up to meet the needs of survivors of sexual violence.
In an interview with Suzanne Moore, Rowling explained that the idea to create such a much-needed service came to her after she heard the head of Edinburgh’s Rape Crisis Centre, Mridul Wadhwa, a trans-identified male, say in a podcast that “bigoted” women requesting female-only services at the centre would be “challenged on [their] prejudices” and told to “reframe [their] trauma.”
“Sexual violence happens to bigoted people as well,” the male chief executive of a women’s rape service said in The Guilty Feminist interview in 2021. “But these spaces are also for you. But if you bring unacceptable beliefs that are discriminatory in nature, we will begin to work with you on your journey of recovery from trauma, but please also expect to be challenged on your prejudices.”
Rowling, herself a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual violence, told Moore she was “climbing the walls” and that the issue wasn’t political for her, it was personal.
“And then, after two days, I had a lightbulb moment and I thought, ‘I don’t have to pace around my kitchen ranting. I can actually do something about this.’ And that’s how it started,” said Rowling.
“Effective sexual violence services must be independent, needs-led and provide responsive, woman-centred services free from the pressure of current political agendas,” Beira CEO Isabelle Kerr told Suzanne Moore.
“It just doesn't matter what your politics are. We focus on what you can only focus on. So when a woman comes in, we ask them a whole number of questions. But whether or not they answer those questions doesn't matter; that won't affect any support they get,” explained Kerr.
“The first stage is about ensuring safety. Somebody has to feel safe here in this room. Because if they don't feel safe, they're never going to be in a good place to start disclosing the trauma and working through it. And that’s the healing process. But we are also really focused on ensuring that they are safe elsewhere…They may need safe accommodation, and there is something we can do about that. That's what the advocacy part of it is about.”
Beira is the Scottish goddess of winter. She presides over the dark half of the year, and her sister, Bride, takes over during the light and warmth of the summer months.
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