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!

To That Boy

Content note: this post discusses sexual abuse, institutional abuse, and self harm. It may be upsetting for those who were abused in an educational setting.

This is an audio post, submitted by a survivor. The transcript can be found after the audio.


To That Boy

*To that boy.

The boy who has moved on, to whom I am a distant memory.

Lucky, because you can. But how I was I supposed to? With the things you did and the stuff you etched in to my brain. You think it’s no big deal as you got away with it, as they would just make excuses for the behaviour.

The school that failed to care was partly responsible. And, in some ways, you are for the rest of it. But there is a third party: the school failed to prepare me.

This was the school that decided that making me sit beside a netball court to tick the ‘disabled students do P.E.’ box was more important than my PSHE lessons when I had to miss something to do physio. Meaning that I missed out on information that could have protected me from you.

I know some people will say it was my fault for not speaking out. But how could I tell people when they wouldn’t believe me? When the school that failed to care just told me that I was being oversensitive, when you were just trying to be friendly. They were so excited that I seemed to have a friend that they totally missed that you were just using a vulnerable person as your victim.

And that’s how you got away with the rape threats, the unwanted kisses and everything else inappropriate you did. That and the fact no one expected you to be capable of what happened, when it happened when we were both 14 when it started.

In some ways, I’ve come to forgive you. But before you think you got away with it all, I will never forgive you for the amount of time I felt guilty for making a decision about my own education that resulted in you moving onto my best friend and I couldn’t protect her.

Also, remember the guy? Freedom? You used to blackmail me about? Well, you were eventually right about him, but that doesn’t legitimise anything, in case you were wondering. I will never ever forgive you for the fact that all the insecurities you drilled in to me made it impossible for him to think of me in the way I do of him.

In some ways, I don’t blame him. It must be pretty difficult to love someone who you end up hurting every time, just because some psycho has convinced her that relationships don’t involve her pleasure. Or what she wants to do.

The saddest thing about it, though? Was then you took away, with that, the person – the ONLY person – who was prepared to walk beside me and help me through this darkness.

The girl that Freedom moved onto, isn’t comfortable with me needing him. But again, she doesn’t know about you. Or because of the situation, he is only person I feel comfortable and safe to have any sort of physical interaction with. Or that he’s the only one who can take away anything you left behind.

The fact is that no one is comfortable with this, though. But they can all walk away from it, a tiny bit, in a way I will never be able to, as it will always hang over me like a little grey cloud. Even if it does fade, over time.

But ignoring it or running away is easy for someone else to do, as they aren’t the ones having to explain why it’s your fault they end up with crimson running down their wrists when they get rejected. Or that that wasn’t the first injurious thing that happened because of you, as the outside world couldn’t see all my contemplations about a one-way ticket to Switzerland.

It’s not quite as easy, though, to just move on when you’re me. Trying not to blame a disability that I can’t change for meaning that I was the victim to something that has made me feel worthy of a supermarket reduced sticker as I feel like damaged goods.

Don’t think just because I’m coming clean about what it feels like to have been your victim means you won. At the end of the day, you always be the guy with a past to hide from everyone, although it will never have the direct on your life, as it will on mine. And I will always be the girl trying to piece things together, piece by piece, whilst tackling the harder fight of forgetting what you left behind.

I’m not doing this because I want your apology, or even an acknowledgement of what you did. I don’t any other person’s sympathy either. Frankly, nothing’s gonna fix it for me that you can do now. It’s my responsibility to deal with putting this back together and putting my life back together and fixing this mess, in whatever way I can with whatever help I can get. But as I look at it, if I talk about what happened, I may just be able to try and sort the system, so it doesn’t fail other people like it failed me.

Sincerely, The girl


If you need support after reading this story, the following services can help you:

  • The Samaritans offer confidential and emotional support for anyone in crisis. Call: 116 123 Text: 084579 09192
  • Victim Support provide emotional support and practical advice for anyone affected by crime living in England or Wales. Open weekdays: 8pm – 8am Open weekends: 24 hours Call: 0845 30 30 900

You can find a complete list of support services on our website. Please remember you can email us at any time.