#UsToo

During the most recent publicity around sexual violence and abuse, I posted #MeToo on my Facebook account. I spent many years being sexually abused by two close family members, those attacks lasted until I was in my teens, and left my home environment for the streets of New York. It was far from safe on the streets during those years, but safer than it was living in my family home. I was alone and scared, but no longer terrorized by my abusers.

Those of us living with disAbilities are constantly at risk of sexual abuse from family members and  other “caregivers”.  Some of us have been vulnerable to myriad forms of abuse since birth. As with Abled society, many of us were left open to abuse from our parents, siblings, friends, and medical professionals. It’s a disturbing fact that the majority of us disAbled folks have been, or are now being abused during the course of our lives. So, I believe #UsToo applies here.

Prior to the onset of my disAbility, I worked in the health care field for many years. I was aware of several cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by a few of the staff members upon the very people we were charged with caring for. I often heard the accounts from patients about what X would do to them when no body was around. I always reported these incidences to the administration, and in doing so, often wondered if any action would be taken. I was directly told that after reporting alleged abuse to the administration, my legal responsibility ended.  My moral responsibility, was another matter. I would continue to watch the allegedly abusive staff member and the patient with a more critical eye. I believed someone who was brave enough to disclose abuse to me, as I had lived through enough of it myself to respect them for putting their trust in me.

Now that my disAbility has progressed to the point it is. I have difficulty moving, I live in fear that I may not be physically able to fend off someone who is bent on sexually attacking me, who touches me or my appliances without my express consent. All I will eventually have left to defend myself with will be my voice, and hopefully, someone who will have enough respect for me to listen and act. I often think about those of us living with caretakers and family members, or who live in facilities where our voices have not been heard who are vulnerable to untold abuses from those who are meant to assist us to live a dignified existence.  I fear for the day when my life will be left in the care of others. I have learned as a person living with a disAbility and a sexual abuse survivor not to trust anyone.

So to us folks living with disAbilities, I say #UsToo. It’s time to shine some light into the darkness and have the strength to speak out. I see you, and I believe you.

~Crip Out~

 

 

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Judgement

After a few decades of living in my body with it’s unique way of moving through the world, I have come to grudgingly respect it’s limitations.  For those of you who know where I’m coming from, or who have been reading my posts this last while, you will also know that I struggle with what my body will or will not allow, as my will often surpasses what my body is capable of.

Recently, I was out in my power wheelchair in Victoria BC on public transit on my way to a meeting. That in itself is unremarkable, as I quite enjoy being out in public rubbing elbows with folks. I met someone while on the ride who saw me use a rollator to get from A to B one day several weeks ago. They remarked that I was now using a wheelchair as opposed to the “walker” and wanted to know why I was now in a wheelchair. They wanted to know if something untoward had happened to me.  I replied that my “disAbility” has it’s ebbs and flows, I experience good and bad days/weeks/months where my body is in too much pain and my balance too precarious to move, let alone quasi- ambulate. They looked at me quizzically, and replied that it was their understanding that once you were in a wheelchair, that’s where you “should” remain. I don’t believe they were trained as a medical professional, but I may be mistaken. Irregardless, an assumption was made.

I experience this type of judgement quite often from Abled society. We the Crippled, are to remain in  a state of stasis in the opinion of  quite a few folks out there. Indeed, some of us do use one appliance exclusively, but like the diverse strata of humankind, we too are all unique.  I have had the experience of being under the unwelcome scrutiny of the well intentioned  most of my life. As my disAbility changed, and became increasingly visible, so did my use of appliances to negotiate the world. They may well change yet again as my life and ability or lack thereof progresses.

Judgements from others in regard to my disAbility, make me feel at odds with society in general, and yes indeed, angry. I am reminded every day that the “ism” is quite alive. The well intentioned assume that our bodies and appliances are fair game to touch without our consent. They assume that they can say and do things to us that they wouldn’t otherwise say or do to any other Abled person. Our “conditions” are open to their scrutiny, and suggestion as to how we could better live our lives if only we could just try X. I have corrected the Ableds assumptions, judgements and interventions loudly and often and will continue to do so.

I wonder what would occur if we were to turn the tables and begin offering the Abled public suggestions about their daily lives, i.e. how to sit, how to eat without choking, how to maintain a healthy body mass, what kind of doctor they need to consult about their Able-ism. I could go on, but I won’t. Judgement, even micro-judgement takes too much of my precious energy to attempt to reciprocate. I have meetings to get to, and people to engage with who will not be passing judgement in regard to who I should be, or what I should be doing. These people appreciate me for who I am, and what I am very capable of, without the oppressive weight of judgement.

~Crip Out~