Help Sarah’s Legal Challenge to Secure Female Only Rape Crisis Therapy

by Sarah Summers

Help Sarah’s Legal Challenge to Secure Female Only Rape Crisis Therapy

by Sarah Summers
Sarah Summers
Case Owner
I’m suing Brighton’s Rape Crisis Centre Survivors’ Network for discrimination because it refused to provide a women-only peer support group. I am a survivor of sexual abuse.
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Sarah Summers
Case Owner
I’m suing Brighton’s Rape Crisis Centre Survivors’ Network for discrimination because it refused to provide a women-only peer support group. I am a survivor of sexual abuse.
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Latest: June 8, 2024

What's the latest?

My case had a further case management hearing on 13 March 2024 and since then my legal team has been working on case preparation.  This includes expert evidence, my evidence and ensuring that my…

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I’m suing Brighton’s Rape Crisis Centre Survivors’ Network for discrimination because it refused to provide a women-only peer support group.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse. When I was a child, I was abused by a family friend. Later, in my twenties, I was again raped by a man I knew. In both cases, I felt tricked and coerced by men, and I still have trouble trusting any men. I believe that every woman deserves the option of a safe, female-only space to heal from the trauma of rape and sexual abuse.

Survivors’ Network

The Survivors’ Network is the only rape crisis centre in Sussex. It receives funding from a number of public bodies, including the Brighton and Hove and East Sussex local authorities, The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, NHS, and the Ministry of Justice.

My experience

I sought help from the Survivors’ Network when circumstances meant I would have to come into contact with the man who had raped me in my local area. When I first joined a Peer Support Group run by the Survivors’ Network, I was relieved to be able to share my story with women who had lived similar experiences. My first few sessions were helpful and supportive, and I continued to attend weekly.

This changed in September 2021 when I arrived at the group and was surprised to see someone who appeared to be a man. I left the session feeling shaken and upset. There’s more about my story here.

I emailed the Survivors’ Network to I explain how I felt, and to suggest that one of the new peer support groups the charity was planning to run could be for survivors who were born female.

But the Survivors’ Network ruled out any change of policy. Instead, they suggested I be added to the 2 year waiting list for 1:1 support and told me to find another service in the city, knowing they are the only RC centre for Sussex.

My claim

The law that makes it possible to offer single-sex services is expressed in terms of permission, not obligation. My central argument is that the Survivors’ Network’s “trans inclusive” policy is indirectly discriminatory: that is, it puts women at a particular disadvantage compared to men, and can’t be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. My lawyers say I have a good claim which I am more likely to win than lose – but lawyers can’t predict the outcome of cases with certainty, so there’s also a very real risk that I could lose and have to pay costs.

On 22 April 2022 I was granted court orders that allow me to bring my claim anonymously.

Why this matters

It is impossible for many female survivors to heal from trauma at the hands of men in a mixed sex space. It is impossible to share feelings around being manipulated and coerced by men and speak freely about male entitlement and privilege in a group with males in it, even if they identify as women.

Some female survivors have a trauma response to males which they cannot help. No amount of ‘education’ from trans rights activists can change this trauma response.

The importance of my case is not confined to rape counselling services. There are many spaces in which the sexes should be separated – changing rooms, hospital beds and domestic violence shelters. If they are not, women are simply unsafe.

Funding 

I am not in this for the money. If I am awarded any compensation, I will donate it to a VAWG charity that supports single sex spaces. To me this case is about protecting women’s rights to safe spaces.

I issued my claim on 29 April 2022. My lawyers have acted pro bono up to this point, but I cannot fight the case to a conclusion without funding.

I need to raise enough money to pay my own legal costs, and to cover the risk that I’ll lose and have to pay the other side’s costs too. People often get “after the event” insurance against the costs risk, but it’s not possible in a case like mine where, even if I win, the financial compensation is bound to be modest.

On reaching this initial target I shall then need to raise further funds to pay my legal fees and any costs that may be awarded against me should my claims be unsuccessful.

Transparency

I will publish all the information about the case that I am able to as soon as I reasonably can, by way of updates to this crowdfunding page.

Legal team

I am represented by Kate Lea and Elizabeth McGlone of Didlaw, Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers and Naomi Cunningham, a barrister at Outer Temple Chambers.


 

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Update 5

Sarah Summers

June 8, 2024

What's the latest?

My case had a further case management hearing on 13 March 2024 and since then my legal team has been working on case preparation.  This includes expert evidence, my evidence and ensuring that my case is ready for trial.  Unfortunately we still do not have a date for the final trial and the listing window starts from November this year.  It is hard to anticipate when the final trial may go ahead.  I thank you all for your continued support. 

Update 4

Sarah Summers

Nov. 27, 2023

Disclosure - it's a large task!

I just wanted to let you know that I am currently going through the disclosure process in my case.  It is a big task and my solicitors are compiling all documents that are relevant to the issues in my claim.  It is one of the biggest jobs and it takes time to review the documents, list them and ascertain what is relevant.  These lists of documents and the documents themselves are then exchanged with the Defendant so each party can see what the other is relying upon.  A set of documents is then agreed upon and a trial bundle created.  I will keep you updated on progress as we are anticipating a further case management hearing to be listed in December to discuss the reliance on expert evidence and also costs.  

Update 3

Sarah Summers

Aug. 22, 2023

Case Management Conference 15 August 2023

My case had a case management conference on 15 August 2023 and there was a discussion about expert reports needed moving forward.  Another case management conference has been listed for December 2023 in front of a more senior judge to deal with outstanding directions and issues.  The final hearing is provisionally listed for dates between 17-28 June 2024, so fingers crossed.  I continue to need to raise funds to pay for the case preparation, experts and also the risk of costs if unsuccessful.  I will continue to update you. 

Update 2

Sarah Summers

July 4, 2023

We have an initial court date!

Finally, after months and months of chasing we have an initial hearing date for case management.  This will be a short hearing on 15 August 2023 to set down directions/deadlines for the preparation of the case.  We will then have a date when the case will be listed for trial.  I will keep you updated.  Once again, thank you all for your support.  

Update 1

Sarah Summers

July 26, 2022

Claim form served on the Defendant

I just wanted to keep you updated on progress and confirm that my claim form has now been served (sent to) the solicitors acting for The Survivor's Network.  They now have 28 days to file their defence.  I shall continue to keep you up to speed on developments.  

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