This piece on disability and sexual assault was published in 2010, long before hashtag movements and mainstream coverage. It’s 2018, and, honestly, I don’t feel as if we’ve made any sort of significant cultural shift.
Each April, we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every year we learn about at least one more documentary, local or regional anti-violence organization, or awareness campaign aimed at stopping the nightmare of sexual assault and abuse, or at helping victims of violence pick up the pieces
We’re churning out “awareness” essays and videos until they’re foaming up around our ears, and I have to ask: “Is it making a difference?”
Is there any less sexualized violence?
Are disabled folks facing any less ableism (read: disbelief, dismissal, lack of accessible services) when they seek help after an assault?
What does it mean to empower people if the basic culture permitting sexualized violence hasn’t changed?
I’m a disabled woman with a lot of disabled friends, and I’m tired of feeling fear for them.
I’m a disabled woman with a lot of disabled friends, and I’m tired of my heart hurting because most of them have abuse lurking in their pasts – and for all the friends who’ve shared with me, there are (probably) just as many who haven’t.
I mine the Internet for pieces like the one linked below, and I feel overwhelmed by the sameness of it all. It feels like nothing is changing, except that we have more data to link to, more essays and opinion pieces to show us the variety of chaotic things that happen in a world that sees disability as a failing, or at least as an insurmountable difference, a world that is so broken around sexuality and sexual expression that I don’t know if we’ll ever succeed in turning the tide away from abuse of power. At least, maybe, the sheer numbers of stories supply the data disbelievers always ask for, the “proof” that sexualized violence is a problem, that disabled folks are at horrible risk of being assaulted…
We’re smack dab in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I look at all the data, trying to find the progress, and wind up just shaking my head.
At least we now give voice to sexual victimization being something that touches people of all genders, not just women.