A police investigation has been launched after a feminist campaigner was allegedly verbally abused and “almost punched” after a women’s rights discussion at Edinburgh University.
Julie Bindel, a campaigner against violence towards women, had claimed she was attacked in George Square after delivering a speech at an event which had been branded “transphobic” by trans campaigners as it focused on the future of women’s sex-based rights.
The keynote speaker at the event, Ms Bindel said she was verbally abused, “lunged at” and almost “punched in the face”, by a trans-woman as she left the building.
The attempted assault was reported to police by a witness, and Police Scotland has now confirmed it is carrying out inquiries into the incident. A spokesperson said: “Police in Edinburgh are investigating following a report of threatening and abusive behaviour in the George Square area that took place on Wednesday 5 June. Inquiries are ongoing.”
Yesterday Ms Bindel said she had given a statement to the police, as had another of the evening’s speakers, Professor Rosa Freedman, a human rights expert, who was with her when the alleged attack happened.
Ms Bindel said: “I was contacted by the police and have given my statement and they have said they will keep me posted. I am a fairly robust person but I’m not as thick-skinned as people might imagine and this incident has left me very shaken and very anxious and low ever since.
“I have been beaten up in the past. I’ve been in countries where I’ve had to really fear for my life. I’ve had my head kicked in by men who wanted to teach me a lesson... this has had a different but very real impact on me.
“There was the actual assault – which would have been far worse if security staff were not there to intervene – but there has also been the way it has been reported in some press and spoken about on social media, which has more or less suggested that I deserved it.
“I was in Edinburgh to speak to women about male violence and when I leave I have some man lunging at me – yet it’s victim-blaming and I am sick of it. I know there are far worse things happening to millions of women around the world, but it’s not about the severity. It’s about the fact that so many people’s response has been ‘What did the transphobic bigot do to provoke it?’ and that is the same attitude women who experience male violence get at every turn.”
It was revealed on Twitter that the person who had lunged at Ms Bindel was a trans-woman called Cathy Brennan. The freelance film critic has said: “I will not be discussing it personally with anyone I do not know.”
Edinburgh University has said its security staff had “acted swiftly and professionally to ensure that no one was harmed” at the event.