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[personal profile] mahogany
I was reading this article on how mentally disabled people aren't really able to testify, and thus help prosecute their attackers, and all I can really think about is this line:

During their lifetimes, research suggests, 83 per cent of women with disabilities are sexually abused; 80 per cent of female psychiatric in-patients will be physically or sexually assaulted.

What??? How is it that this is still allowed to happen? What is someone with a mentally ill relative that is either a danger to herself or others supposed to do? Have her committed, so she can be raped? Clearly, we need female only hospitals staffed exclusively by females.

Evidence rules leave disabled Canadian girls open to sex abuse

Date: 2011-06-02 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm enrolling the boys in the local Catholic school this fall. I have to say when the principal told me that the school is all female staff except for the gym teacher, I was relieved. And that's with boys.

Date: 2011-06-02 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's sad that we have to think that way, but you know, that's reality. I had to have a conversation with my older children about how they can never be alone with their friend's fathers, or let any male coach or family friend them get too friendly, or get them alone. It made me so sad to have to have the conversation because there are good people out there, but the sad reality of life is that there are also evil ones out there, and we can never be too careful.

Date: 2011-06-02 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am ALSO livid! This total crap and cannot be tolerated in a supposedly civilized society!

Date: 2011-06-02 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
How then, does one start to advocate for these women, and for change? These are people without clout; without any social currency. Add to it all of the stigma and misinformation surrounding mental disabilities and mental illness, and what's left a massive uphill battle.

This was actually on the front page (near the bottom, but still on the front page) of the Sun, yesterday. It gained media attention...sort of...

And yet, where is the outcry?

Date: 2011-06-03 02:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Violence against women is tolerated and violence against the disabled is, too :/

You might be interested in checking out It's no longer being updated but it's a good source of information and activism around disability rights, and has got links to other similar blogs/groups too.

Date: 2011-06-03 04:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for that site. It's really comprehensive. I've bookmarked it for further reading.

Date: 2011-06-03 12:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't think it's a gender issue, per se, but one of power/dominance. (Sexual assault is about power, not about lust.) In either case, abusers were attracted to easy prey. I think the question is really what can people do in order to better screen people working with people with disabilities or people with mental illnesses.

And sexual assault can happen between members of the same sex. Women can also assault men--Mary Kay Letourneau, anyone?

Date: 2011-06-03 01:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Are you sure we know that males are showing the same statistics as females? I agree: women can assault men, men can assault men, women can assault women. All can and do. My brother was molested from the age of 5-14 by a male friend of the family. However, without comparable statistics from men who are disabled or with mental illness | do not think we can rule out the possibility that this is a gendered issue. The rate that women are raped *is* higher than men. If it is about power, there is an inherent power dominance reality between men and women, as men hold and are driven by a variety of forces to seek power in ways that women are not.

I know there is a probability that men underreport. My brother took 30 years before he told a single person. This is also a problem that needs to be addressed - and is another way that gender relates to abuse.

Date: 2011-06-03 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Power is absolutely gendered, especially when its sexualized. Women are more vulnerable to sexual assault than men. However, I think it's very dangerous to assume that children will be safe in an all-female environment. Women can and do sexually, physically, and emotionally abuse others, and on top of that, I think (I'm not certain) the gender disparity is not nearly as pronounced with child survivors of sexual violence as it is with adult survivors.

I think it's important to think about such issues in intersectional ways. Women with disabilities are almost certainly more vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence than men with disabilities, but men with disabilities are more vulnerable than physically/mentally abled men.

Date: 2011-06-03 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
However, I think it's very dangerous to assume that children will be safe in an all-female environment.

I agree - particularly if you include all forms of abuse such as mental and emotional abuse, I think women are equally guilty (I'm assuming you're referring to my comments to Tatianne). However, I think a child in an all female environment is substantially less likely to be physically or sexually assaulted.

Date: 2011-06-03 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know about less likely to be physically assaulted (thinking of the case of the Magdalene Sisters in Ireland, for example), but I do agree that a child in an all-female environment is a lot less likely to be sexually assaulted.

Just to be totally clear I don't mean any disrespect to your best judgment about how to keep your kids safe! I guess my personal hesitation re: kids not being alone with male adults is that it's a blunt tool in a number of ways. There are more specific warning signs for predators that kids can be taught to recognize - e.g., being asked to keep something secret from their parents, or receiving unusual levels of individual attention from an adult - and they can be given specific, age-appropriate information and language about what predatory behavior and inappropriate touching looks like, and a framework where they know they can go to parents or other trusted adults if they ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe. That gives them tools they can use to keep themselves safe from predators of whatever gender. I guess part of where I'm coming from is that I think cross-generational relationships are hugely important for kids, and it seems a shame not to be able to form them with male adults who aren't relatives.

Date: 2011-06-03 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No worries - I wasn't taking you comments as an affront to my judgement :-)

I do think that one of the saddest things about child abuse - particularly when it is perpetrated by a family member, or trusted friend or mentor is that it has the possibility to forever leave people questioning their judgement. The parents of the child who let that person into their lives, may never trust anyone again. The child him/herself may develop trust issues. It's sad because in addition to the relationship and the solid character formation that comes from cross generational relationships, there is the knowledge that's passed on, and there is the transmission of culture and traditions, which is of paramount importance these days.

Date: 2011-06-03 02:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree. There are gendered cultural factors that make males much more likely to be perpetrators and females much more likely to be targets of sexual violence, but it's a crime committed by and against people of all genders. I think in addition to better screening, we have a lot of work to do on able-bodied privilege/ableism and disability rights, and specifically how gender inequalities interact with the marginalization of disabled people.

Date: 2011-06-03 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think the question is really what can people do in order to better screen people working with people with disabilities or people with mental illnesses.

Yes, that is indeed the question. How do we screen for those things? Getting rid of the no-brainer things such as ensuring ALL staff including those that don't necessarily have interaction with the patients have criminal records that are free of any charges, or even allegations of abuse. Yes, I know it's probably illegal to deny someone based on allegations if they were not convicted, so this is obviously not a viable proposal, but man! 80%. 80 fucking percent. There is something really wrong here.

Then, there are the people that have never been charged - whose victims have yet to come forward, for whatever reason. How do we screen for those?

I know that having an all female facility isn't an ideal answer, but as an immediate knee jerk reaction, it strikes me as a way of eliminating a good chunk of the perpetrators and creating a safer environement.

Date: 2011-06-03 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, it's insane, no question.

But I think a lot of it is rooted in how we relate to people with disabilities and people with mental illness. (Going back to discussions of abelism, like [ profile] blauteufelin brought up.) If we can combat that, then we can also reduce instances of other kinds of abuse. (physical, emotional, and psychological abuse are just as insidious.)

Date: 2011-06-03 05:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm impressed that you even sense of my reply. I was so fired up, when I wrote it, I didn't even check it over. Oi! What a jumble! :p

I think there are two separate issues. The treatment and abuse of people with disabilities, which can and does occur in institutions, at home, and in the community at large, forms one issue in my mind. The scope of addressing that particular issue is huge, and as you and blaueteufelin pointed out needs to begin with awareness and education of the public at large.

The second issue is the one of in-patient safety within institutions. That issue should theoretically be easier to address because the institutions are a controlled environment, and we should be able to more easily rectify who has access to the patients, and implement measures to ensure patient safety. Of course, what I think should be easy to fix, and reality are often quite different.

Date: 2011-06-03 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That, and in this country, there's often a huge difference in care in facilities where people can pay for it and where people can't. If I ruled the world, there wouldn't be such a difference.

Date: 2011-06-03 05:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hell, and even if you're abled and have the audacity to be a rape survivor, your testimony will be doubted, anyway.

Date: 2011-06-03 06:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dave Hingsburger does a lot of work in the area of abuse prevention for people with intellectual disabilities.

Date: 2011-06-03 02:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Clearly, we need female only hospitals staffed exclusively by females."
I agree with you completely!!!

Date: 2011-06-06 01:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And then we run into the whole problem of physical abuse at the hands of overworked and underpaid nurses. :( I agree with you, as long as said hospital has surveillance cameras in each room, which would probably be expensive. There really is no perfect system.


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