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.