#ITSNOTOK Disability Themed Twitter Q&A 

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2017. 6TH - 12TH FEBRUARY

This Friday, the 10th of February, from 1-2pm GMT, Disabled Survivors Unite will be hosting a Twitter Q&A with Respond centred around disability for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

We welcome everyone to take part in this discussion! We are especially keen to hear from disabled survivors and disabled people.

However, we have purposefully phrased questions in such a way that means you do not have to disclose whether you are either disabled or a survivor when answering.

Disabled Survivors Unite are a user-led organisation (all founders are disabled) creating change for disabled survivors of abuse and sexual violence. You can find out more about our work here.

Respond is a service which provides support to children and adults with learning disabilities who have experienced abuse or trauma. You can find out more about their work here.

How our Twitter Q&A will work

Be sure to follow @DSUtweets and @RESPOND_UK on Twitter. All questions will be posted by the @DSUtweets Twitter account.

We will be using the #itsnotok hashtag for this discussion. However, please note that this hashtag is being used widely for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, so other discussions might be taking place on it.

We will be tweeting ten questions over the hour, but please feel free to take your time answering these. All questions are available in advance below.

Format of Q&A

If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow the format: “A1 [your message] #itsnotok”

In this case, Q1 stands for Question #1 and A1 stands for Answer #1.

The hashtag will allow us to see your responses, and the number means we know which question you are answering. However, if you find it easier, feel free to quote retweet with your answer.

If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions so you can respond to them, check @DSUtweets account. Each question will tweeted about 6 minutes apart.

For an explanation of how to participate in a Twitter chat, please check out this useful example by Ruti Regan here.

Check out this captioned ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc by clicking here.

If you need any support during this discussion, or afterwards, please visit our website page on Getting Support here.

If you think posts may be triggering for you, please ‘mute’ the #itsnotok hashtag. This way you should not see the questions and answers. You can learn how to do this by clicking here.

Questions

Feel free to prepare your answers in advance, but please only post these once we have asked the questions on Friday.

Q1 Please introduce yourself however you feel comfortable! If you’re a service, please describe your work & reason for joining. #itsnotok

Q2 What services exist for disabled survivors? How can we create more specialised services? #itsnotok

Q3 How can existing support services become more accessible to disabled people? What changes would you like to see? #itsnotok

Q4 How do disabled people experience sexual abuse and sexual violence in different ways to non-disabled people? #itsnotok

Q5 What can schools do to educate disabled children about safe, appropriate sex and how to identify abuse? #itsnotok

Q6 How can therapy help disabled survivors who have experienced sexual abuse and violence? How could it be made more accessible? #itsnotok

Q7 What can the police do to better support disabled survivors? What changes are needed? #itsnotok

Q8 Does the criminal justice system put disabled survivors at a disadvantage? If so, how can we change this? #itsnotok

Q9 How important is it that disabled user led groups/survivors are involved in research surrounding abuse and sexual violence? #itsnotok

Q10 If you could say one thing to a disabled survivor, what would it be? We will collect these into a blog post for survivors to read. #itsnotok

We hope you can participate in our first #itsnotok disability themed Twitter discussion!

If you miss it, don’t worry! You’re free to answer the questions at any point!

We have tried to make this Q&A accessible a possible. However, can you think of anything that could make it more accessible? We welcome suggestions, please email these to us: info@disabledsurvivorsunite.org.uk

We want to say a special thank you to Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project, for letting us use her wonderful #CripTheVote twitter discussion template. Be sure to follow Alice at @SFdirewolf and the Disability Visibility Project at @DisVisibility.

#ITSNOTOK My Story: 5

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2017. 6TH - 12TH FEBRUARY

For Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week we are amplifying disabled survivors voices on our blog. This piece of writing was sent to us anonymously.

Content note: this post is about sexual violence.

5

5,889 miles. 12 hours. 5 years. 3 minutes. 1 person

One night, less than 12 hours. 5,889 miles from the safety of home. You took those hours away from me.

A slip of the hand, a disguised sedative. You marked my body with blood and bruises, imprinting my skin with your control. A constant reminder of my domination and shame.

Waking with no recollection, just the physical marks of power. The shame and embarrassment washed over me biting the wounds aggressively with tides of salt water. A million hidden tears, stinging my wounds. I recoiled and hid my shame from the world.

The bruises you had left on skin had faded but had become scars on my mind. 5 years later. My memory was lost again. The scars of your trauma began to bleed. A 5-year flood burst its banks, washing over me with fear, guilt, shame, terror.

Jolting me awake to the terror of this world. Everything a threat. Lights too bright. Noises too loud. Danger always constant. My mind hyper-vigilant to the potential of my loss of control.

As the people in my life watch me writhe and shake on the floor. My body banging against the floor, my mind attempting to expel your bruises from my mind.

3 minutes. My body disconnecting from the fear, shame, self-loathing and guilt. Trying to process the suffering you caused me.

Slowly I began to heal. Self-love stitched together those scars you made. A wash of anger clotted those scars, hardening them. That guilt and shame unable to penetrate. Resilient.

I now wear those scars as armour. I can talk about them. I can cry and scream about them. I accept them as signs of a battle that I lost, but of a war that I have won. Proof that there is always the possibility of healing.

1 person did this to me. 3 minutes of disconnection. 5 years of shame. 12 hours of domination. 5,889 miles away.

But they will not control me again.

If you have been affected by this post, or would like help to find accessible services in your area, please visit our support page by clicking here.

If you would like to share your story with us, you can anonymously submit by clicking here.

A Letter to Survivors #ITSNOTOK

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2017. 6TH - 12TH FEBRUARY

For Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week we are amplifying disabled survivors voices on our blog. This letter was sent to us anonymously.

“Dear Survivor,

Please know that what happened to you is not your fault.

I know myself how easy it can be to blame yourself or to blame your disability, but you have done nothing wrong and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

You matter. Your story is important. And you are not alone.”

Would you like to contribute to our blog as part of this campaign? Please click here to find out how.

If you have been affected by this post, or would like help to find accessible services in your area, please visit our support page by clicking here.

#ITSNOTOK Twitter Q&A

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2017. 6TH - 12TH FEBRUARY

This Friday Disabled Survivors Unite and Respond are hosting a Twitter Q&A for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

We hope that this online event will start an important conversation about disabled survivors and how we can be best supported.

Questions will be asked from 1pm – 2pm on our Twitter account, but please feel free to join in at a time convenient to you.

We also welcome you to submit question suggestions for this discussion! Please send these to: info@disabledsurvivorsunite.org.uk

Respond are a service which supports children and adults with learning disabilities who have experienced abuse or trauma, and we’re thrilled to be working with them! To learn more about their work, please click here.

We hope to see you on Twitter at 1pm on Friday!

Disabled Survivors Unite Says #ITSNOTOK

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2017. 6TH - 12TH FEBRUARY

For Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week we are amplifying disabled survivors voices on our blog. This story was sent to us anonymously.

Content note: this post mentions rape.

“I was recovering from brain injury, I had become paralysed on my right hand side and couldn’t walk very well. A person who had been my boyfriend a few years before came to visit me. We were now friends, buddies. We were looking at records and magazines in my bedroom.

He gave me a hug, then kissed me, then raped me in my bedroom. It was not consensual sex, I was stuck in my bedroom, deeply terrified and ashamed.

I never told anyone, not even my mum. I just remember being fixed in one position feeling very cold, scared and confused.”

If you have been affected by this post, or would like help to find accessible services in your area, please visit our support page by clicking here.

If you would like to share your story with us, you can anonymously submit by clicking here.

Disabled Voices Heard at European Parliament Hearing

Photo of Holly, guide dog Isla, Ashley, Bekki, and Alice. Stood in front of pink "EUROPE NEEDS FEMINISM" sign.

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.

You can download the transcription here.

#ITSNOTOK Call for Submissions

Blue speech bubble logo. Red and white text reads: SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE AWARENESS WEEK 2017. 6TH - 12TH FEBRUARY

Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week is fast approaching, and we want to hear from you!

From 6th – 12th of February we will be giving you the opportunity to have your voice heard.

We are looking for disabled people who have survived sexual abuse/violence to create blog posts for us. This will help people to understand how we experience this type of abuse and what needs to change.

There is no right or wrong way to share your story or feelings, but we thought we’d give you a few ideas;

  • Write a letter to someone
  • Share a piece of art you have created or a photograph you have took
  • Tell your story
  • Share information that you think people need to know about disability and sexual abuse/violence
  • Write a poem
  • Offer advice

If you would like our help to create a blog post, please get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to assist you!

You can send all submission by email: info@disabledsurvivorsunite.org.uk

Or you can send written submissions anonymously using this form.

If you get in touch with us by email, you can still choose to remain anonymous and do not have to give us your name.

We hope you will consider helping us in our campaign to have disabled survivors voices heard!

Disabled Survivors Unite is Headed to the European Parliament

Disabled Survivors Unite is thrilled to announce we are speaking on the panel “Domestic Violence Against People with Disabilities” at the European Parliament. 

All four co-founders will be giving testimonies from disabled survivors, alongside TABÚ from Iceland and We Rise Again from Sweden. Our friend Eleanor Lisney from Sisters of Frida will also be speaking about structural barriers faced by victims of domestic violence. 

This hearing, which is hosted by MEP Soraya Post, hopes to raise awareness of domestic abuse against disabled people and put the issue on the political agenda.

This event will be taking place on the 31st of January in Brussels. 

Disabled Women’s Dark Reality

Guest post by Dr Kirsty Liddiard, Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Professor of Critical Disability Studies & Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University

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

According to the World Health Organisation, disabled people are 1.5 times more likely to experience violence and 4 times more likely if the person has a mental health condition. Markedly, disabled women experience sexual violence in greater numbers than both disabled men and non-disabled women.

Violence and its causes have social, cultural and economic underpinnings. By this, we mean that our likelihood as individuals of experiencing violence is rooted in society’s unequal power relations. Violence doesn’t take place in a vacuum, but is steeped in inequity.

When it comes to intimate partner violence – also known as domestic violence – disabled women (we include women with mental illness in this category) suffer in myriad ways. For many disabled women, intimate partner violence goes unnoticed because they are assumed to not be in intimate, sexual and loving relationships at all.

Additionally, the types of harm to which disabled women are subjected can be unrecognisable when we think of ‘domestic violence’ in its traditional sense: a denial of care; withholding medication and food; encouraging self-harm; and exploiting and exacerbating incidences of psychosis, mania and depression are forms of violence unique to mental and physical impairment and illness.

Even when seeking justice, disabled women face barriers. Women who experience mental distress are seldom supported in ways they need to report violence and give evidence in court. Quite often, women’s testimonies are doubted or disbelieved because of their mental health diagnosis. This is even more likely if women are institutionalised, detained (for example, under a mental health section) or are deemed to lack capacity.

While we – as authors whose lives intersect with disability in various ways – don’t want to emphasise disabled women as inherently vulnerable or as victims, it is important to recognise that disabled people experience less privacy in their lives, have increased reliance on others, services and institutions for care, and experience increased access to their bodies by non-disabled people – all of which increase chances of experiencing abuse, violence and exploitation. We think it is important that we highlight this in our communities – particularly during these very difficult times of austerity where cuts to services and a rolling back of the welfare state mean many disabled people are living in more vulnerable circumstances.

Importantly, disabled women also experience an overwhelming lack of access and support in leaving situations of violence – often because the majority of women’s services and refuges don’t cater to their needs. This is despite the fact that disabled women, in comparison to non-disabled women, are more likely to experience sexual and physical violence in their lifetime by people close to them (parents, intimate partners and carers).

Commonly, mainstream domestic abuse organisations seldom consider disabled women within their remit, and services and refuges themselves can be inaccessible in a range of ways. The pragmatics of disability and care are pertinent here: the ability to leave a situation of violence, or move out of the family home (often quickly, quietly and without raising unwanted attention), can be far more difficult if the support of another person is needed, or if your home has been specifically adapted to meet your needs.

The stories of disabled survivors of domestic violence have highlighted a reluctance to leave care packages that have been fought long and hard for, and that care provision is currently not flexible enough to move with women in ways that would protect them. Again, these worries run deeper at a time of significant governmental and local authority cuts to existing care provision.

It is important that disabled women’s stories are heard and that they are given a voice. While talking about violence and hearing such stories is difficult, listening to women – all women – is one critical step we can all take towards keeping women (and others) safe.

If you have been affected by this post, or would like help to find accessible services in your area, please visit our support page by clicking here.

If you would like to share your story with us, you can anonymously submit by clicking here.

Please note that a longer version of this article was originally published by Disability Now.

The Istanbul Convention Vote – Friday 16th Decemeber

Purple and white logo. The female gender sign with a clenched fist in the centre. Text says "#changeherstory write to your MP to ratify the Istanbul Convention"

Why it’s important?

From the ICChange website: “The Istanbul Convention…is the most comprehensive legal framework that exists to tackle violence against women and girls.”

The Convention sets minimum standards for governments across the global to meet to protect women and girls against violence. The ratification of the Istanbul Convention (IC) in the UK would mean that our government would be legally bound to uphold the convention, forcing them to take necessary steps to PREVENT violence, PROTECT those experiencing violence and PROSECUTE perpetrators. This would mean a lasting, national commitment to the safety of women and girls experiencing violence, it would mean real change.

The Istanbul Convention has been given the ‘gold standard’ by UN Women and deemed ‘ground-breaking’ by the Human Rights Watch.

Countries that have already ratified the Istanbul Convention:

• Albania • Andorra • Austria • Belgium • Bosnia and Herzegovina • Denmark • France • Italy • Malta • Monaco • Montenegro • Portugal • Serbia • Slovenia • Spain • Sweden • Turkey

Why we need to ask our MPs to vote

This Friday, 16th December, our MPs are voting on the law that will decide whether or not the Istanbul Convention gets ratified in the UK. However, at least 100 MPs need to be present for the Bill to pass onto the next stage. As the vote is taking place on a Friday, and the last Parliamentary session before the holidays, most MPs will be in their local constituencies at this time, and less likely to show up to the debate.

Because of this, it’s important for us to campaign/write to our local MPs to get them to attend the debate for the Private Members Bill on Friday.

This debate could lead us to having a government that has a practical and legal framework to protect women and girls from violence. It could lead to the creation of more adequate refuges and women’s shelters, the funding for women’s services, 24-hour helplines and specialist services.

All the co-founders have emailed their MP, as this is an issue close to all of our hearts. This is a Bill that is vitally important to women everywhere, but especially to disabled women. Being 3.7% more likely to experience violence and abuse in our lifetimes compared to able-bodied women, these measures are vital for us and could be life changing.

DSU have created a template for anyone to use to email their MP about this matter. You can find that here: Istanbul Convention MP Template

If you have the energy to, create some noise on social media too, use the hashtags: #StandByMe #ChangeHerStory #IstanbulConvention

And if you are wondering how to find your MPs email, take a look here: http://www.ukpolitical.info/Finder.htm