Last night, a new reader shared a statistic with me that did not surprise me, but which scared the living daylights out of me: 80% of disabled women will experience sexual assault. 47% of disabled women who reported sexual abuse were assaulted on 10 or more occasions. Studies have found that anywhere between 40%-97% of sexual assaults against individuals with disabilities go unreported.
Those are the stats. Now the reality:
In college I attended a number of Take Back the Night events. These events were the pinnacle of feminism at my college, and they were attended by many. The room was packed every year. Various services were touted, statistics were handed out, stories of survival were told. But there was something missing. That something was very important to me. I was the only disabled woman telling her story. And they weren’t talking about statistics or services which related to me.
Not ONCE in my years of working as a feminist scholar, or in my years as a student has the dialogue around rape or sexual violence been about people with disabilities. Not ONCE have these pieces of information been shared with me. Not one professor, classmate, or fellow activist has ever said “people with disabilities are at a high risk for this kind of abuse”.
I am outraged. Feminists should care about more than just able bodied women. Feminists should be talking about this. They should be trying to protect women with disabilities just as much as their able bodied peers, yet I hear nothing. And that scares me because I don’t know why. I don’t understand why I have been brushed off when I try to talk about women’s rights in my own context. It scares me that we are not afforded the outrage of the majority. It frightens me because I wonder if they don’t think we are worth protecting.
I am part of the 80% and I refuse to be silent. I am perceived as weak, and so sexual predators see me as prey. I walk down a street with my cane and people see me as someone they can screw with.
The ignorance in the mainstream feminist community needs to stop. We need to talk about this. Where are the services? Where are the support networks? Where are people to hear us when horrible things happen?
I’m just one voice shouting into the void, but I hope that voice makes a difference, because THIS is unacceptable.
Please read the following links for more statistics and information:
Barrier Free Justice – Resources for PWD who are survivors of sexual assault in the NYC area
Why Don’t You Just Take a Cab – My Experience With the Cops and Disability
Sexual Harassment 102 – When You’re Blind and a Woman: My Explication of disability and sexual harassment.