A RAPE charity is reportedly being sued by a victim of sexual assault after a woman's only meeting was attended by a transgender person.
The Brighton-based organisation is facing legal action from a woman who claims the situation made her feel "uncomfortable" and unable to speak, according to a report.
The woman told the BBC she stopped going to the sessions and is now bringing a case against Survivors’ Network, claiming indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment.
Laywers representing Sarah - not her real name - claim that the charity failed to meet the needs of all sexual violence victims.
The charity has said that "trans women are women and, as such, they are welcome into all of our women-only spaces".
The lawsuit is seen as a test case amid a national debate about single-sex spaces and the inclusion of transgender people.
Sarah told the BBC: “I think my case is about women’s rights."
She told the BBC how she had been groomed and sexually abused when she was a child and raped by a man she knew in her 20s, but decided not to go to the police.
After knowing she would have to come into contact with the man who attacked her, she approached Survivors’ Network for help and said she felt an immediate benefit from group sessions.
However, Sarah said the session was then attended by a trans woman who "presented as typically male".
She said: “I don’t trust men because I have been raped by a man. I just don’t necessarily trust that men are always who they say they are.”
Sarah salso told the BBC how she was asked to speak by the person running the session and felt “manipulated and coerced into talking”.
She says she had a panic attack after the session was over.
In a statement published last month, a spokeswoman for the charity said: “We wholeheartedly disagree with any suggestion that we haven’t complied with the law and we will be vigorously defending the anticipated allegations.
“We support survivors of all ages and genders in Sussex and this includes trans and non-binary people.
“We are committed to intersectionality and trans-inclusive feminism is central to our ethos.
"Trans women are women and, as such, they are welcome into all of our women-only spaces.”
The charity said that “Sarah” made a complaint in September 2021 about the presence of another attendee in a group work session and, at the end of the formal complaints process, felt that she was unable to continue accessing the service.
The spokeswoman said: “We recognise that the claimant hasn’t felt able to access the services she would like at Survivors’ Network.
“We have offered the claimant individual one-to-one support, and so far she has not taken us up on this offer.
“We want to make clear that this offer is still open to the claimant.”
Guidance published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission said that, in certain places, providers can offer services for people of the same sex that “prevent, limit or modify” transgender people from attending if it balances the needs of users of the service and is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
The Argus has contacted Survivors’ Network for comment.