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.

Anti-Bullying Week 2016: Power for Good

POWER FOR GOOD logo. The W in power is shaped like an arrow. #ANTIBULLYINGWEEK at bottom of image.

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

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

Disabled Survivors Unite on Going Back Giving Back

Photo of Holly and Aled Jones

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.

Ashley attends Campaign Bootcamp

Ashley smiling wearing a red shirt with ‘campaign bootcamp’ on the front

This week I attended Campaign Bootcamp, an intensive residential training course for people to develop their campaigning skills. I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from Campaign Bootcamp, without which I would not have been able to attend. Throughout the week we were trained by experts in strategy, social media, publicity, outreach, technology, and fundraising. We also put what we learnt into practice through interactive and immersive exercises.

The skills I learnt will undoubtedly be put to good use with the work Disabled Survivors Unite are doing. The intensity of the training has also prepared me for the realities of running campaigns and I feel much more confident as a result. In addition, it was a great opportunity to develop team skills and network with fellow Bootcampers, some of whom have expressed interest in working with DSU in the future.

The team behind Campaign Bootcamp went out of their way to make sure everything was accessible. I greatly look forward to working with them over the next year through their mentorship programme to continue improving on everything I’ve learned. All these skills will surely help Disabled Survivors Unite thrive as an organisation.

Group of Campaign Bootcamp attendees standing together outside, most of whom are wearing red Campaign Bootcamp shirts

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.