JK Rowling has launched a women-only support service for victims of sexual abuse in Edinburgh.
The Harry Potter author is one of five women behind Beira’s Place, a group that will offer help and advocacy to women in the Lothian region, aged 16 and over, who have experienced sexual violence or abuse in their lives.
The free service, named after the Scottish goddess of winter, will be fully funded by the author and has been launched to follow the global 16 Days Campaign for the elimination of violence against women.
Rowling, who has written about the sexual and domestic abuse she suffered in the past, has said she hopes the service enables “more women to recover from trauma”.
She said: “I founded Beira’s Place to provide what I believe is currently an unmet need for women in the Lothians area.
“As a survivor of sexual assault myself, I know how important it is that survivors have the option of women-centred and women-delivered care at such a vulnerable time.
“Beira’s Place will offer an increase in capacity for services in the area and will, I hope, enable more women to process and recover from their trauma.”
The provision of single-sex services has been a key debate of the gender reform bill, of which Rowling is strongly against.
Across Scotland, many domestic violence and sexual support services are “trans inclusive” and accept referrals from both sexes.
Beira’s chief executive, Isabelle Kerr, a former manager of Glasgow Rape Crisis who received an MBE in 2020, has said that the service is free from the “pressure of political agendas”.
She said: “Violence against women and girls is an issue that crosses all cultures, classes, and religions.
“These are gendered crimes that are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men and disproportionately experienced by women.
“Beira’s Place recognises that effective sexual violence services must be independent, needs-led, and provide responsive, women-centred services so that they are free from the pressure of current political agendas.
“We are committed to ensuring that our service is free, confidential, and accessible to women survivors who may need it.”
The rest of the service’s board comprises Rhona Hotchkiss, a former prison governor, Johann Lamont, a former leader of the Scottish Labour Party and a lawyer; Dr Margaret McCartney, an academic, broadcaster and Glasgow GP; and Susan Smith, director of For Women Scotland.
Details of how to access the service can be found here.