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Women-only services

How things currently stand in Rape Crisis England & Wales and our member organisations, and where we plan to go from here.

A young woman wearing a beige hoodie and blue jeans talks to a young female counsellor. Both are sitting on a sofa.


Rape Crisis England & Wales has a vision for a world without sexual violence, where all women and girls can live safely, freely and with dignity.

In November 1974, a group of around 40 women met in London to discuss the ongoing rape crisis and what to do about it. That meeting eventually led to the founding of the UK's first ever Rape Crisis centre in England.

Since then, an entire network of Rape Crisis centres has been established by passionate groups of women around the country. Today, Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW), the national organisation representing this network, has 39 member organisations in England and Wales.

RCEW is a proudly feminist organisation that specialises in working to support women and girls. Women and girls are much more likely to experience sexual violence, and we believe this is a cause and consequence of their unequal status in a patriarchal society. Working to feminist principles, we recognise the imbalance of power relations between men and women within society, and work to promote substantive equality.

However, we also know that sexual violence and abuse can, and does, impact everyone. We therefore also work closely with other organisations – both within and beyond the Rape Crisis movement – which support men and boys.

RCEW is an autonomous organisation and a registered charity, and its legal structure is that of an association. Our member organisations are Rape Crisis centres which have completed membership agreements and which have been assessed under our National Service Standards. They are all independent charities and work with women and girls to offer specialist sexual violence support services.

Where we currently stand on women-only services

Our services

RCEW offers two main direct services to survivors:

  • This website, which provides information to survivors and their supporters. Our site is aimed at women and girls primarily and so the design, language and imagery reflects that. We do not intend to change this because the information within our site can be accessed by any survivor. We will continue to centre the experience of women and girls across this and all of our communications because this is our primary purpose.
  • Our 24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line is for all survivors over the age of 16, though we acknowledge that some people may find specialist services from other providers to be more appropriate for their needs. We actively signpost where asked (e.g. the National LGBT+ Rape and Sexual Abuse Helpline, the Men’s Helpline, and the Live Fear Free Helpline in Wales). Our 24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line service is staffed by women.

Our member organisations and their services

Our member organisations are autonomous and we respect their independence and expertise, as well as their knowledge of how they should shape their services according to the needs of their local communities. Their membership with us focuses on their provision of specialist sexual violence services to women and girls.

In terms of women-only services, member organisations choose to define women-only services as single-gender (by which we mean services provided to anyone who identifies as a woman or that women’s services are for them), or single-sex services (by which we mean services being provided to women on the basis of biological sex).

Further, many member organisations also provide services to men and boys, whilst retaining the women-only pathway for women and girls and retaining women-only spaces. In practical terms, this can mean, for example, that men and boys are seen in a specific part of the building, off-site or on specific days.

Some of our member organisations also offer a service like this for trans and/or non-binary survivors. RCEW is clear that the make-up of this service provision is a decision for each member organisation to make for themselves. They have all acted in accordance with our membership and National Service Standards requirements around the provision of women-only space, whether services are provided on the basis of biological sex or gender identity.

As things stand, we accept all of those approaches within our membership and do not require that any of them change in order to continue to be RCEW members. We recognise the need to support member organisations as they work through their approaches to service provision.

We also recognise that our member organisations’ ability to choose how they provide services is profoundly affected by the priorities and agendas set by commissioners. As a membership body we provide support (within the limits of our knowledge) on any aspect of this as part of our support to member organisations.

We believe that all survivors of sexual violence deserve to be treated with dignity and have the right to access specialist, trauma-informed services.