Why “Beira’s Place”?

Beira [pronounced By-ra] is the Scottish goddess of winter. She rules over the dark part of the year, handing over to her sister, Bride, when summer comes again. Beira represents female wisdom, power, and regeneration. Hers is a strength that endures during the difficult times, but her myth contains the promise that they will not last forever.

Beira’s Place is a new sexual violence support project based in Edinburgh but covering the whole Lothian region. We deliver a trauma informed service to women survivors of sexual abuse from aged 16 years, no matter when that sexual violence or abuse has happened in their lives. We support women who have experienced:

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Intimate partner sexual violence
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Online sexual abuse, image based sexual abuse, or ‘revenge porn’
  • Sexual abuse in prostitution
  • Sexual coercion

Beira’s Place staff are a highly trained team of practitioners, offering a trauma informed support service which is unique in Edinburgh and the Lothians. The service is single-sex, women only, staff and service users and is also a women only environment. All our staff have extensive expertise in supporting women survivors of all forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation. We offer a pluralistic, person-centred approach using counselling skills, and tailoring support to each woman according to her individual needs.

Beira’s Place has been set up in response to demand from female survivors for a women-only service, as one is currently not available in the area.

Beira’s Place is a women only service. It has been set up by women, for women. This means that if you contact us, the first person you speak to will be a woman, any support you receive will be from a woman and you can be guaranteed that when you visit our centre everyone in the building will be women.

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. It is for this reason that we are committed to providing a service that is open to women only. There are a number of services in Lothian, and indeed across Scotland, that provide support to male survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. However, there are few, if any, that are strictly women only. The national helplines (domestic abuse and sexual abuse) are open to female and male survivors but there is no women only domestic abuse or sexual abuse helpline in Scotland.

Workers at Beira’s Place and the Board of Directors all have a long history of working with women. Any woman seeking support is assured that all decisions about the running of the centre have been made by women, including those with a history of delivering direct services and listening to the voices of women.

Support staff have many years’ experience working with women’s organisations and come from a background in sexual violence support, domestic abuse support, addiction support, supporting women and girls who self-harm, mental health support and supporting women abused in prostitution and sexual exploitation.

We know that most women who are survivors of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation overwhelmingly want to be supported in a women only environment[1] [2] [3] [4] There is a great deal of evidence finding that trauma informed services have better outcomes[5] [6] It’s this evidence that drives the work we do.

[1] why women only FINAL.qxd (wrc.org.uk)

[2] July-2016-Women-Only-Services-and-their-Benefits.pdf (womensregionalconsortiumni.org.uk)

[3] The importance of women only spaces and services for women and girls who’ve been subjected to men’s violence | Karen Ingala Smith

[4] Microsoft Word – Single sex spaces roundtable report (scottishwomensconvention.org)

[5] Trauma-Informed Care Outcome Study – Travis W. Hales, Susan A. Green, Suzanne Bissonette, Alyssa Warden, Josal Diebold, Samantha P. Koury, Thomas H. Nochajski, 2019 (sagepub.com)

[6] Optimising outcomes for complex trauma survivors: assessing the motivators, barriers and enablers for implementing trauma informed practice within a multidisciplinary health setting | BMC Health Services Research | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)

Our Values

Beira’s Place is committed to challenging misogynistic and patriarchal power structures that, through the abuse of, and threatened abuse of women and girls, prevent many from reaching their full potential. We recognise that responsibility for any act of violence against women and girls lies with the perpetrator: it can never be excused, justified, or explained away and there is no context within which it is acceptable or valid.

Beira’s Place recognises that effective sexual violence services must be independent, needs led, and provide responsive, woman 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 survivors who may need it.

Beira’s Place believes that services supporting survivors of male violence, abuse, and exploitation are most effective when they are women led, trauma informed and delivered by women for women. We recognise that as well as being women, factors such as race, disability, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, religious belief, and experience of previous trauma, can affect women’s experience of sexual violence.

Beira’s Place understands that from the early days of women led support services for survivors of male violence, single sex services have been at the forefront of developing innovative ways of working with survivors through their healing journey. We are committed to continuing this work in providing evidence-based responses to the needs of sexual violence survivors and building innovation to respond to the stated needs of survivors.

Beira’s Place challenges the myths surrounding sexual violence against women by promoting the understanding of off all forms of sexual violence as acts of power and control and are preventable.

Beira’s Place understands that all forms of commercial sexual exploitation constitute abuse of women and girls and support the Nordic Model approach which “decriminalises all those who are prostituted, provides support services to help them exit, and makes buying people for sex a criminal offence, in order to reduce the demand that drives sex trafficking.”[1]

[1] Nordic Model Now – What is the Nordic Model? – Nordic Model Now! (May 2022)

Our board of directors

JK Rowling

JK Rowling is an author, campaigner, and philanthropist with a longstanding interest in women’s and children’s issues. A survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, she understands the critical importance of female-centred, female-delivered support for women seeking to rebuild their lives after sexual trauma. She is the founder and funder of Beira’s Place.

Rhona Hotchkiss

Rhona was a nurse and advisor at Scottish Government and then a Prison Governor. She has worked with and campaigned on issues affecting women & LGB people all of her adult life.

Johann Lamont

Johann Lamont is a former teacher who is still passionate about education. She is a former Labour and Cooperative MSP and has been a lifelong campaigner for equality and justice, and for the rights of women and girls.

Susan Smith

Susan is a co-director of For Women Scotland, the largest grassroots women’s organisation in Scotland set up to strengthen and protect women’s rights. She has served on the boards and committees of various children’s charities and organisations and has a background in finance.

Dr Margaret McCartney

Dr Margaret McCartney is a GP, academic, freelance writer, and broadcaster.

Our Staff

Chief Executive Officer – Isabelle Kerr MBE

Isabelle Kerr has worked in frontline community organisations since 1982 when she joined Strathclyde Rape Crisis as a volunteer support worker. She was a founder member of Aberdeen Rape Crisis and worked in the field of poverty, homelessness, welfare rights, gypsy traveller rights, violence against women and managed Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis between 2006 and 2021. While working with the University of Strathclyde on its ‘Equally Safe in Higher Education’ toolkit in 2019, she was awarded an honorary doctorate for her work on this and on the wider field of sexual violence over four decades. As a consultant for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on supporting UK nationals who were raped or sexually assaulted overseas, she was awarded the MBE in 2020.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer – Sue Domminney

Sue Domminney has worked for over thirty years in the voluntary sector in Scotland. She has extensive experience in the field of anti-poverty (Scottish Low Pay Unit), equalities and disability rights (Centre for Inclusive Living in Glasgow), and violence against women and girls (Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis). From 2004 – 2021, she worked in both frontline and management roles within GCRC, being promoted to Deputy Centre Manager in 2008. Sue has a MSc in Applied Social Sciences from Glasgow Caledonian University.

Complaints Procedure and Policy

Beira’s Place – Edinburgh Women’s Sexual Assault Support Centre aims to provide high quality, accessible services to its service users and others who seek its help and support. As part of this commitment, we have established a complaint procedure the aim of which is to enable individuals and organisations using the service to make suggestions and complaints. Suggestions and complaints can be made both about the services that the organisation provides, and those that it is considered should be provided… Read more


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