Creating change for disabled survivors of abuse and sexual violence
Author: Holly Scott-Gardner
Holly is a student, blogger and disability advocate.
She is interested in improving the experiences of disabled students, changing how disabled people are represented in media and pursuing her interest in languages as far as she can.
Holly lives in Coventry, west midlands.
Content warning: This blog discusses domestic and sexual violence experienced by disabled people.
On January 31st, Disabled Survivors Unite spoke at the European Parliament about domestic violence experienced by disabled people. The event brought disability organisations, MEP’s and disabled people together to speak about the issues we face and what we can do to combat them.
Soraya Post, MEP and member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats organised the hearing. She said that domestic violence affected all people with disabilities and had gone “under the radar of lawmakers for too long.”
DSU spoke about our own personal experiences as well as sharing testimonies submitted to us by disabled survivors of abuse. Disabled people are prevented from coming forward when they experience abuse for multiple reasons. Some do not know that what they are experiencing is abuse, and others face structural barriers when trying to access services. As a result, we called for the UK government to reverse the cuts made to support services and disabled people directly. These have a significant impact on all disabled people, but especially survivors of abuse and violence.
Our testimonies were disturbingly echoed by others at the hearing. Ann Jönsson, who sits on the board of the European Blind Union, spoke about a deaf lady who was prevented from communicating by her husband who refused to interpret for her. She also shared the story of a blind teenager who was raped by a man pretending to be the taxi driver designated to pick her up from school. It was clear that disabled people across Europe are experiencing domestic and sexual violence, and not enough is being done to tackle it.
We hope that this hearing has sent a clear message to governments that they must do more to support disabled survivors of abuse and violence. It is imperative that they take this responsibility seriously, and we suggest three key changes they must make in order to do this.
We’ve been celebrating Anti-Bullying week across the UK. Here at Disabled Survivors Unite we are committed to ensuring the voices of disabled survivors are heard.
I experienced bullying myself during a number of points in my life and know the affect it can have on a person. The thing I most want people to understand is that there is no shame in having experienced bullying. It is not your fault, no matter how people may make you feel that it is.
Bullying can be a form of institutional abuse, and I want to hear more people talking about this, and what we can do to stop it. Whether you are at school and a teacher does not take your concerns seriously, or you feel that your carers and personal assistants try to silence you please know that DSU are here, and we will always listen.
This years Anti-Bullying Week theme is “power for good”. I pledge as an individual, and as a co-founder of DSU to use my voice, and any positions of power I hold for good. A huge part of that is amplifying disabled voices to ensure that we are never silenced.
If you have experienced bullying, there are a number of organisations you can contact. DSU will support you as a disabled survivor, but you can also contact the following organisations:
Bullying UK supports those who have been bullied in a number of environments, including at school, at work and online.
The National Bullying Helpline is a voluntary run helpline that assists people who have experienced bullying of all descriptions. They are open between 9 AM and 5 PM Monday to Saturday and will take urgent calls out of hours. You can contact them by calling 0845 22 55 787 or 07734 701221
Childline has lots of advice on their website about what to do if you are bullied, and how to build your confidence after you have experienced bullying. Childline is a free service helping anyone in the UK under the age of 19. You can either phone, email or get support online.
If you would like to contact Disabled Survivors Unite please email us
Co-Founder Holly Scott-Gardner was featured on today’s episode of Going Back Giving Back. Here she writes about her experiences with the show and what it means for DSU.
I’m sat at a table talking about my life. It’s not an experience I’m especially used to. I can stand in front of an audience and speak about blindness and the importance of independence, but somehow this feels different. I admit that I was bullied, I know it’s not really an admission; not something I need to hide, but it has always felt like a secret I should keep hidden deep inside of me. This isn’t just a conversation between two people. I am being filmed for a television show that thousands will see. I am giving my life story to the world because I have a message that I want everyone to hear. Disabled Survivors Unite is here, and we want you to know about us. Filming for Going Back Giving Back was an incredible experience. I can’t thank Michael enough for the support he has shown Disabled Survivors Unite and I look forward to us working with him in the future. The support he is providing us really is essential and will enable us to expand our existing work. If you would like to watch the episode, you can find it on BBC iPlayer.