International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: A Disabled Perspective

Red circle logo. Around the circle text says "stop violence day". In the circle text says "November 25, STOP violence against women". Handprint replaces the o in stop.

Content note: this post includes descriptions of abuse and sexual violence experienced by disabled women.

Last year Public Health England published a report which found that disabled people are twice as likely to experience abuse and sexual violence compared to non-disabled people. And disabled women were identified as being at the highest risk.

They also reported that the abuse disabled people experience is likely to be more severe, frequent, and last for longer periods of time. Yet, across the country, support services for survivors are simply not accessible to disabled people. This is why we exist.

Many services understanding of disability access is narrow, with some believing it simply equates to their building being accessible to wheelchair users. While this is very important, we train them to have a much broader interpretation of access needs and reasonable adjustments.

Our work goes beyond accessibility. We want all services to understand that in order to be truly inclusive, they must recognise that the forms of abuse against disabled people cannot be likened to the experiences of non-disabled survivors. In fact, the abuse we suffer is often unrecognisable when the two are compared.

Many disabled women are abused by partners who also care for them. This gives the abuser the power to withhold food, medication, and personal care. Perpetrators are also able to limit a disabled person’s independence by exacerbating their conditions. One woman told us that her abuser induced seizures that physically harmed her, another explained her wheelchair was damaged by an abusive partner to prevent her from leaving the house.

Disabled people also experience institutional abuse. We recently supported a woman called Jade* whose social worker refused to change her care provider when she explained her personal assistant was being abusive. Jade was told if she cancelled her care package altogether she would not be allowed to leave the house alone and if she did it would result in her being raped. Her social worker knew prior to saying this that Jade was raped as a child.

Disabled women are also less likely to be believed when they speak out about being abused. This is because we are completely desexualised, we are seen to be undesirable and passive. This leads people to believe we cannot be victims of sexual violence and, as a result, we are often disbelieved more frequently. One woman we met was told: “Things like this don’t happen to people like you.”

The dynamic of our abuse is completely unique to disabled people and a big part of our work is to raise awareness of this. It is imperative that all services and organisation which work with survivors recognise this in order to best support disabled people.

On this day, and everyday, we stand alongside our disabled sisters who have experienced abuse. We believe you. We are here to listen. And together, we will create change.

If you would like to share your story with us, please visit our (re)Storytellers page.

If you need support, please visit our support page.

*Please note that small details of the stories in this post have been altered to protect people’s identities, including names; however the abuse experienced has not been changed.

We are recruiting grants writers!

Disabled Survivors Unite are looking for ambitious and enthusiastic disabled people to help us to write grants!

This role is voluntary, as is every position within the organisation. Work will be done remotely from home and hours are very flexible!

Job description;

You will have a key role in ensuring we secure funding to achieve change for disabled survivors of abuse and sexual violence.

You will have experience in writing bids for Trusts and Foundations, preparing proposals, or fundraising.

You will have the ability to handle confidential information and work as part of a team.

This opportunity is open to anyone living in the UK.

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

Closing date: 28 February 2017

DSU does Parallel

On Sunday, September the fourth we were invited to run a stall at Parallel London and had a wonderful time! Ashley and Bekki sat behind our stall which has a black board sign on it saying ‘Disabled Survivors Unite’. Parallel is a family festival which celebrates disability and diversity. A big part of the event is the inclusive run and push races, which hundreds of people participated in. Our co-founder Ashley took part in the Super Sensory 1k race to raise money for Victim Support, a charity which we are looking forward to working with over the next few weeks. Ashley smiling wearing a Victim Support bib and holding up a Parallel medal worn around their neck. It was great to meet festival-goers and talk to them about the work we are doing and our plans for the next year. We are so thankful for all the support and encouragement people gave to us! Little girl wearing a princess crown holding up black board sign on it which says ‘Disabled Survivors Unite’. We also ran a workshop where we invited people to help us design our new logo. All entries were fantastic and we have sent these over to our graphic designer for inspiration. Woman wearing a flower crown holding up a piece of paper with the logo she designed for us. And it was brilliant to see so many people wearing our Survivor badges with pride around the Olympic Park! a handful of purple badges which have ‘survivor’ written on them. There were many businesses running stalls too and it was amazing to see them investing time and effort into becoming more inclusive. We had the pleasure of speaking to staff from Barclays Bank and learnt about their services for disabled people. We were very impressed by their range of accessible resources! photo of Barclays accessibility pamphlet featuring one person with a guide dog and another wearing a hearing aid. We want to say a big thank you to Parallel for inviting us and for all the hard work they put in to make the day such a great success. Special thanks go to the lovely Charlie Trueman who worked with us to get everything in place for our stall. Charlie smiling in high vis jacket holding up black board sign on it which says ‘Disabled Survivors Unite’. We can’t wait to do it all over again, see you next year! Alice, Bekki and Ashley smiling. Bekki holds the Parallel London sign and logo.