We’ve received funding from The Edge Fund!

We’re super excited to announce that we’ve received funding from The Edge Fund which supports grassroots groups fighting for justice and equality.

On 17 February we were invited to a funding day in London where we had the opportunity to speak about our work with members of The Edge Fund and fellow applicants.

Disabled Survivors Unite were one of sixteen activist groups there and it was a great opportunity to hear about other people’s important work and campaigns. We were also overwhelmed by the support and encouragement we received from everyone.

We were told at the end of the day we’d been chosen to recieve £3,000 towards our work! We’re over the moon and very honoured to have been selected for this funding — thank you Edge Fund!

The Edge Fund is a small organisation and they are currently raising money to enable them to continue to fund grassroots activism like ours. We’d love for you to consider supporting them either financially, if you’re able to, or by telling others about their amazing work.

To learn more about The Edge Fund, please click here.

The other inspiring activist groups we met were;

African Rainbow Family

Black Triangle Campaign

Disabled People Against Cuts Glasgow

Friends of Detainees

Galway Feminist Collective

Glasgow Autonomous Space

Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts

Hand2Mouth

Leeds Unity Centre

Living Rent Edinburgh

Smash IPP

Ubele Initiative

Unity Sisters

We Will Rise

You Should see the Other Guy

#ITSNOTOK Messages from Natasha and Alice

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2018. 5TH - 11TH FEBRUARY

Content Warning: Discussions of sexual violence and abuse

This Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Disabled Survivors Unite is sharing messages on our blog written by survivors for survivors.

We recognise the importance of people speaking out about sexual violence, and we stand with all those who have told their stories, but we also know the current media coverage is overwhelming for many survivors. Due to how difficult these past few months have been especially, we decided to ask survivors to write messages of support and advice for other survivors who are struggling.

Today we’re sharing messages from Natasha and Alice.

For those days when it’s tough. Focus on small things little achievements from just getting out of bed or sending a message.

And know that no matter who you are and what’s happened there is something good in the world you live in if you look hard enough.

For me with having communication issues I found people would tell me I read the situation wrong. That I must have missed signals. But that shifts the blame to me when it still is not my blame to have. Don’t let people make you feel to blame just because you have more difficulties than other people.

— Natasha

People often say if we’re feeling overwhelmed we should just come off social media, but that’s really difficult for some people, especially for those of us who are isolated without our online communities and friends. A better solution could be to make social media safe spaces for yourself when you’re struggling.

One option for Twitter is to ‘mute’ certain words or hashtags. Another is use browser extensions such as Soothe which allows you to pick which content you don’t want to see and blurs this out.

You could also consider setting up new social media accounts where you can follow others who you know won’t post things you’ll struggle to see. For example you could set up a Twitter account just following certain friends, or an Instagram just following animal accounts. These separate accounts can be a safe space for when things are overwhelming, and you always have the option to go back and use your main accounts when you I want to.

Some people find limiting the amount of news they look at can help too. You could delete news apps on your phone temporarily or change the settings so you aren’t being sent news alert notifications.

There are also lots of apps for people who a struggling with their mental health. For example, Booster Buddy is a free app which lets you check in with how you’re feeling, reminds you about doctors appointments and when to take medication, and helps you follow self-care routines.

— Alice 

#ITSNOTOK Messages from Jodie and Fiona

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2018. 5TH - 11TH FEBRUARY

Content Warning: Discussions of sexual violence and abuse

This Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Disabled Survivors Unite is sharing messages on our blog written by survivors for survivors.

We recognise the importance of people speaking out about sexual violence, and we stand with all those who have told their stories, but we also know the current media coverage is overwhelming for many survivors. Due to how difficult these past few months have been especially, we decided to ask survivors to write messages of support and advice for other survivors who are struggling.

Today we’re sharing messages from Jodie and Fiona.

I didn’t really start processing what had happened to me until almost a year later, during a high-profile rape scandal at my university, and for ages I worried that I’d just “jumped on the bandwagon” or misremembered events to fit what I was reading in the news.

It turns out that those late realisations are actually a pretty common response, partly because of how the brain processes trauma and partly because sexual abuse and harassment are so normalised that survivors often assume they’re the problem.

My thoughts are with all survivors struggling with recent news, but particularly with those realising for the first time that they’re a survivor too – your experiences are real, and I believe you.

— Jodie

Don’t be angry with yourself if you cannot leave the person who hurt you. It can take a long time to get to a position where you feel able to leave, whether it’s because you don’t feel safe leaving or because you are reliant on them. This becomes extra complicated when the person is your carer. You can do things at a pace which keeps you safe, and sometimes that means staying for a while.

I can’t recommend rape counselling highly enough. I had it in the year following the rape, and I also went back last year because I realised that there were elements of it which had only really bubbled to the surface recently, 17 years after the fact. There is no time limit on when you go – they will help you even if it was decades ago. Contact your local rape and abuse network, and ask them if they have an advocate who specialises in disability, or if they can find one.

— Fiona

#ITSNOTOK Messages from Hannah and David

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2018. 5TH - 11TH FEBRUARY

This Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Disabled Survivors Unite is sharing messages on our blog written by survivors for survivors.

We recognise the importance of people speaking out about sexual violence, and we stand with all those who have told their stories, but we also know the current media coverage is overwhelming for many survivors. Due to how difficult these past few months have been especially, we decided to ask survivors to write messages of support and advice for other survivors who are struggling.

Today we’re sharing messages from Hannah and David.

If you hear or read something upsetting, it’s ok for you to be upset and cry. It’s ok for you to be angry. Equally you might see something which you think should upset you but it doesn’t. That’s ok too, we shouldn’t feel bad about not being upset either. Try to be kind to yourself.

— Hannah

I’m not sure that the hurt and anger will go away completely anytime soon, though it is only 6 months since the incident so I guess it is early days.

These occurrences are now in the news on a daily basis and although this can bring up awful memories for victims, including myself, all this publicity can be looked on as a positive thing. The fact that it is now being so widely reported makes everybody very aware of these things. And this could make it easier for people to be open and to talk about things.

Yes it is absolutely disgusting and distressing that this is so widely spread, but it is only by the publicity and awareness that the way this is dealt with that can bring about change.

My anger and resentment is not only directed at my abuser, but also the limitations of the law and the way it has been dealt with. Maybe something can now change.

I think for me, the biggest breakthrough to my healing was the realisation that it WAS NOT MY FAULT AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!

At first I became very withdrawn and was asked all the time by family and friends “what’s wrong” and “are you okay”. I guess I was too embarrassed and ashamed to say what had happened.

However I realised I had nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. I have nothing to hide.

As we have all seen recently, once someone speaks out then others will feel able to also speak about their experiences.

I guess that what I am trying to say is that it can all be turned into a positive and that the abuse is now more openly talked about and then and only then, we can bring about change.

I also wrote a letter (without any intention of posting it) to my abuser to say how I felt at the time and how it had affected me. I must admit that on rereading it I was surprised at how angry and upset I was, however this was very therapeutic and may be useful thing for other people to do.

— David

Research project: the impact of the benefits system on survivors

Would you like take part in research about how the benefits system affects women survivors of sexual violence?

Beth Speak is conducting this research to look at how survivors are treated and the impact the benefits system has on their lives.

What is the research about?

The research project looks at how problems with ESA, JSA, Universal Credit and PIP (or DLA) have affected women survivors of sexual violence.

The purpose of the project is to highlight their experiences, and show the need for policies which are fairer for people claiming benefits.

Who can take part?

Self-identifying women who have experience of the benefits system since 2012 and are survivors sexual violence (rape and sexual abuse) are invited to take part.

You must be over 18-years-old and be living in the UK.

Who is doing the research?

Beth Speake is a PhD student based in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University.

What will happen if I take part?

Participants will have between 1 and 3 interviews to talk about their experiences of claiming benefits. Participants and Beth will be the only people in the interviews, and everything said will be strictly confidential.

The interviews will be more like conversations than formal interviews.

What are the benefits of the research?

Participants will be able to talk about their experiences and opinions of claiming benefits and how this might have affected them.

It is hoped that the project will show the need to change benefits policy so that it is fairer.

Participants will also receive a £15 high-street voucher as a thank you for their time and contribution when the interviews have finished.

Want to know more?


If you want to ask questions about the research or would like to take part, you can text or call Beth on 07525130431.

You can also email: beth.speake@student.shu.ac.uk

Call out for messages from survivors

We recognise the importance of people speaking out about sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. And we stand with all those who have told their stories. But we also know the current media coverage is overwhelming for many survivors.

So Disabled Survivors Unite are putting together a blog with words of support and advice for survivors, written by survivors.

We welcome all people who identify as a survivor (or victim) to take part.

What would you like other survivors who are struggling to know? You may want to explain how you manage when things become overwhelming, share self care tips, or give some words of encouragement and support.

Please email your submissions to: info@disabledsurvivorsunite.org.uk

Alternatively, you can share your message completely anonymously by clicking here. We cannot detect who you are or your location through this form.

We are more than happy to publish people’s messages anonymously.

Meet our Volunteers!

We’re pleased to announce that our little team has grown in recent months and we’re excited to introduce you all to our new volunteers!

SALIHA

Saliha has studied Psychology and Law and is currently completing a masters in Social Work at the University of Kent. She is blind and a survivor of honour-based abuse.

“I decided to become a volunteer for DSU to give a voice for disabled women, and to be an advocate for equal rights. I am particularly passionate about speaking out against the oppression of disabled women and gender-based violence. Furthermore, I would like to empower all disabled individuals, from all walks of life, to achieve their potential.”

JACK

Jack is an autistic activist who works within the charity sector and supports work that helps to empower young and disabled people alike. He lives in Weymouth, Dorset.

“I am delighted to be joining DSU at this time where it is continuing to grow in profile and activism, with a whole network of supportive volunteers to help ensure disabled people’s voices are heard and given hope at times of deep adversity.”

KESHIA JADE

Keshia Jade is an autistic adult currently studying for her BA in Theology with Philosophy at the University of London. She blogs on issues surround mental health, faith, and education.

“Volunteering with the DSU offers me the chance to use my voice, and experiences, to advocate for those who have been forced to suffer in silence. I feel blessed to be a part of an organisation that is focused ensuring that disabled people are heard.”

ZAHRA

Zahra is a Journalism student at the University of Leeds. She has a particular interest in media representations of disabled people and domestic violence issues.

“I’m very excited to start volunteering with DSU. It’s great to be getting involved with the only organisation I know of to focus on helping disabled survivors of domestic abuse.”

JAMIE

Jamie has an MA in Social Policy and Ba hons in Politics and Social Policy. He is currently a visiting lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton.

“Working with DSU is really meaningful for me, I want to campaign with and for survivors to improve access to support and educate people.”

BENJAMIN

Benjamin is a Philosophy graduate living in Leeds. He has an interest in disability issues and mental health.

“I’m particularly interested in issues surrounding mental health and the various accessibility barriers associated with them. I’m excited to volunteer with DSU to help tackle these issues.”

JEMMA

Jemma works in education and is a keen volunteer. She aspires to be a community arts practitioner.

“Much of my volunteering to date has been geared towards creating opportunities and supporting change on a local level. Through working with DSU I have the chance to work on projects that are both potentially larger in scale and longer term. More than this, volunteering for DSU will enable me to make an active contribution to a cause which is important to me.”

RACHEL

Rachel is a Social Policy student, Care Worker, and Volunteer in Canterbury, Kent. She is interested in social welfare policies, the care sector, and activism related to sexuality and queer issues.

“I am excited to be working with Disabled Survivors Unite to raise awareness and advocate for better support for survivors of abuse, particularly with an organisation founded by those with personal experience of the issue.”

NATASHA

Natasha has an MEd in Educational Psychology. She is currently an NHS clinical reviewer and autism specialist support worker.

“I am thrilled to be part of Disabled Survivors Unite to help support other disabled survivors and make sure their voices are heard and represented.”

David’s Story

The (re)Storytellers Project was created to amplify the voices of disabled victims and survivors. Submissions are shared in an effort to foster community and bring about change in the way disabled victims and survivors are seen and treated. In this post, David shares his story.

Content note: This post discusses sexual abuse by a carer and being failed by the justice system and Social Services.

I am in need of carers to help me get showered and ready and dressed in the mornings and have been using these services for about 3 years, all with the same care company and without any problems. Due to my disability I had a need for a wet room to be fitted.

During the course of the work being done, I needed to have an all over wash while standing at the sink, most of which I am able to do myself, albeit very slowly, and was able to wash myself down to just above my knees. On this particular occasion, on the 3rd of April, I was washing myself as usual and had finished washing the top half of my body, incidentally, I am unable to wash my back myself but try to be as independent as possible.

After washing the top half and before washing my groin area, I put my flannel into the sink to wash it out before continuing… At this point the carer snatched the flannel from my hand and started to wash my groin area.

I will not go into full details as to what happened next, even now I am unable to talk about it. However, the carer made a couple of very strange comments while “washing” that particular area. At one point I went “oh”. I was intending to say “oh, what do you think you are doing?” but stopped myself from finishing the sentence.

He then said, “sorry if I’m hurting you but I need to do it like this because that part needs more washing” I didn’t say anything at the time as I couldn’t quite believe what was happening.

Having thought about it and getting more and more upset as it sunk in, I decided to report the matter to the office. They in turn reported it to social services, and a meeting was then arranged between the social worker, one of the office supervisors and myself. As a result of this discussion I made the decision to report the whole thing to the police.

Whilst the policewoman was very nice, I was advised that the matter could not be taken further as there was no evidence it was my word against his.

To all intents and purposes that was the end of the matter, and I requested to only be allocated female carers.

The social then provided me with a copy of what was his concluding report. I read things in there that the perpetrator had said during the course of the investigation that I thought needed to be addressed as they were quite simply pure and utter lies. He had said that it was the first time he had been to me while my new shower was being fitted and that I had requested to be “washed all over”.

However, it was the 4th time he had been to me and was fully aware of what was required. If I asked to be “washed all over” why did he then not wash the top half of my body? He brushed the whole thing off as “being helpful and thorough”.

Obviously there were no witnesses, as presumably it wouldn’t have happened had anybody else been present… The care company told me that he had been put on to only double calls, though I have been told by other carers that this is definitely not true.

What really bugs me, apart from what happened is the fact that the perpetrator has been able to get away with it, keep his job and escaped with this scot free? I needed to have counselling as a result of this, which I had to pay for out of my own pocket as I was informed there was a 6 month waiting list otherwise.

As an interesting footnote, only yesterday I happened to see one of my old carers in the street, and he actually told me, without any prompting from me, and without me telling him about what had happened, that he had left his job as he often worked with this perpetrator and felt “very uncomfortable” with him.

There is absolutely no question that this was misinterpreted, or could be put down to being “helpful” or “thorough” this was an assault, pure and simple and he has got away with it without any repercussions.

I have since found out that my abuser left his previous job with another care agency because he was unable to get enough work due to too many people not prepared to work with him. He’s still working for the company I use but I now know that more official complaints have been made against him and carers have left because they felt very uncomfortable working with him.

It seems very clear that there is much, much more to this – I wasn’t the first and unquestionably won’t be the last. I have no idea how but this man needs stopping.

If you have been affected by this post, we have a list of support services that work with survivors of all kinds of abuse and violence. Please click here to view the list.

If you would like to submit your story, please click here for our anonymous submission form. If you would prefer to title the post yourself, please include this in your message. You can also email us: info@disabledsurvivorsunite.org.uk

Farewell Holly!

Our friend, colleague, and fellow Co-Founder Holly Scott-Gardner is leaving our organisation as she goes to study in Colombia.

Holly was one of the founders of Disabled Survivors Unite and she has had a leading role in creating and building our organisation. Mostly notably her work has focussed on promoting sex education for young disabled people and disability access to services. She also created and ran our wonderful website and blog.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Holly for all the passion and hard work she’s brought over the last year, our organisation really wouldn’t have been what it is today without her. We will always remember and be inspired by her determination and unwavering perseverance.

Holly has been a friend to us all as much as she has been a colleague, and while we’ll continue to be friends from afar, we’ll miss her very much. But we’re glad for the time we’ve been able to spend together—we have so many fond memories, special moments, and happy times filled with fun and laughter that we’ll always treasure.

It’s been an honour to work with Holly, we wish her all the best for her future and look forward to hearing about her adventures in South America!

Photo of Alice, Holly, Bekki, and Ashley in Brussels. All smiling. Photo in black and white.

We are looking for volunteers!

We are looking for an ambitious and enthusiastic people to volunteer with Disabled Survivors Unite!

The vast majority of work will be done remotely from home, but there may be opportunities for you to attend events and meetings if you are able to.

Successful applicants will have the opportunity to discuss and chose what their role will be in within the organisation. You may want to work in campaigns, research, administration, events, fundraising, blogging, training, or another area.

Positions are open to anyone living in the UK, and we especially welcome applications from people who are disabled, BME, and LGBTQ+.

Job description

You will be passionate about creating change for disabled survivors of abuse and sexual violence.

You will have the ability to handle sensitive and confidential information.

You will be able to discuss abuse and sexual violence.

We are flexible on how much time volunteers can commit, but it would be preferable for you to give a certain amount of hours per month.

We will ensure applicants and volunteers have their access and communication needs met.

Please note that this is an unpaid role as we are currently unfunded, this means every position within our organisation is voluntary.

For more information or to request an application form please email: info@disabledsurvivorsunite.org.uk

Closing date: 15 July 2017