THE head of one of Scotland’s biggest rape crisis centres has suggested “bigoted” rape survivors should be re-educated about transgender rights as part of recovering from their trauma.

Mridul Wadhwa, a transgender woman, said people would not truly recover unless they addressed their “unacceptable beliefs” because “therapy is political”.

She said: “We will work with you... but please expect to be challenged on your prejudices."

The comments imply rape survivors may be treated differently according to their political views.

One expert said “pushing a political view onto a woman at a time of profound trauma and crisis” would be “inappropriate, unethical and unprofessional”.

Wadhwa also told The Guilty Feminist podcast that rape survivors could “reframe” their trauma and have “a more positive relationship with it”.

That way “it becomes a story that empowers you and allows you to go and do other more beautiful things with your life,” she said.

Despite lacking a gender recognition certificate, Wadhwa, 43, was appointed chief exective of Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre in May, a post that was advertised as for a woman only.

The centre is currently advertising for a chief operating officer, who must also be a woman, and says applications from trans women would be “especially welcome”.

Wadhwa, a former SNP council candidate in Edinburgh, last year made it onto an all-women shortlist for the party’s Holyrood candidacy in Stirling.

The Herald:

But she left the party in December after MSPs backed a law to let rape survivors choose the sex, rather than the gender, of the person examining them, and joined the Greens instead.

On the Podcast, Wadhwa said some rape survivors may be worried about the presence of trans women - people born male but who identify as female - in women’s organisations.

“So we might have fear of men of a certain ethnicity, we mighty have fear of trans people.”

She went on: “Sexual violence happens to bigoted people as well. It is not a discerning crime. 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.

“If you have to reframe your trauma, I think it is important as part of that reframing, having a more positive relationship with it, where it becomes a story that empowers you and allows you to go and do other more beautiful things with your life, you also have to reframe your relationship with prejudice.

“Otherwise, you can’t realy, in my view, recover from trauma and I think that’s a very important message that I am often discussing with my colleagues at Edinburgh Rape Crisis.

“Because you know, to me, therapy is political, and it isn’t always seen as that.”

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In the podcast, Wadhwa also attempted to address concerns about natal males being in rape crisis centres by arguing “men are already in these spaces” because they were involved in decisions about its funding and “planning permission”.

She said: “The argument that women's spaces will be somehow compromised, from my perspective as a strategic thinker, that's already happening, because we are functioning in a man's world.”

The comments from Wadhwa, who previously boasted “I speak my mind, even when I shouldn’t”, have provoked controversy online.

One expert on sexual violence, author Dr Jessica Taylor, said it wasn’t “true at all” that addressing subjectively defined “bigoted” beliefs is necessary to process trauma.

“It’s not trauma informed or therapeutic,” she tweeted in response to the podcast.

“It is of concern to me that any rape centre would take the view that their clients who access their services at a time of crisis and trauma, would need politically re-educating so they agree with the views of the CEO and centre policies. This isn’t person centred working.

“The priority, and primary focus, should be their own journey, trauma, experiences, processes and practical issues after they have been raped. 

“It’s scary to hear someone say that women subjected to rape who want a female-only space are bigots who need re-educating during therapy.

“Pushing a political view on to a woman at a time of profound trauma and crisis is not only inappropriate, unethical and unprofessional... It’s just selfish. That’s how it came across.”

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The For Women Scotland group accused Wadhwa of causing distress to rape survivors.

It said: “The ‘bigots’ Wadhwa identifies are women who want female-only spaces in rape or domestic violence shelter and female-only counselling.”

It said Wadhwa’s argument that men giving a rape crisis centre planning permission was akin to biological males being present in it was “bizarre and insulting”. 

Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, which promoted the podcast on social media, today issued a statement from its chief executive in which she claimed some of her comments had been "taken out of context", but also wished her language "had been clearer".

She said that if a woman engaged with the centre's services, it would prioritise her needs.

"Alongside this, it is also critical that we act as proactive bystanders and lead by example as an organisation dedicated to equality and human rights.

"If what we see/hear from someone is clearly prejudiced and we are not responding to their urgent support need it is also part of our role to provide a space to explore and challenge this, in as kind a way as possible.

"In order for us to create a safe space for survivors it also needs to be a safe space for staff and volunteers, where everyone feels valued, safe and respected."

She concluded: "If we want to be a truly feminist organisation, we too need to be an anti-racist organisation, we need to be an organisation that stands up to homophobia, ableism, classism and yes, transphobia.

"This is the bigotry I referred to in the podcast.

"I am drawing a line under the podcast and in desperate hope that my words here are understood in full and with the compassion and integrity I am writing with."