What is sexual harassment? For a woman, it can be pretty intimidating, but it is basically, unwated sexual advances, jokes, comments, etc. Even if they’re made online, sexual harassment is sexual harassment.
I’ve seen some firsthand accounts of women with disabilities who were on the receiving end of the sexual harassment issue, though not by a man of honor or higher power, only by disabled men themselves. There was a man in Georgia everybody knows, and he’s sexually harassed women online, including myself, a friend in South Carolina, and several friends in Texas, Ohio, and possibly some other states like Virginia or Wisconsin. WHo knows how many victims this guy has, and I hate seeing I was one of those. There is a difference between harassment and preying on women, and for us with disabilities, it can be difficult to talk about in conversation.
Sarah, a staunch supporter of women with disabilities, inspired me to write this because she brought up many valid points. Since we women carry the baby in the whole biological scheme of humanity, it is important that women be kept safe, even if cognitive impairment is present. For these women, sexual harassment may be viewed as a predator-prey relationship attempt. However, even cognitively impaired women should be taught the basics of sex and pregnancy and the stages of life and so on. Call it a family life discussion, but women with disabilities are capable of expressing sex, no matter what cognition they possess.
Sarah herself lives alone with her pets, her guide dog included. She’s hard to get through to in some people’s eyes because of past happenings, and I could tell because perhaps she was either sick, not present on my FB page, or chose to unfriend or block me on Facebook due to a comment I posted which has inspired this blog post. I was only trying to add to the conversation and tell her that I as a disabled woman have been on both ends of the spectrum from the accused to the accuser of sexual harassment. My parents accused a friend of mine of sexual harassment, and he was 51, which was scary. I get it, some people could forbid young people from hanging out with older people. However, this friendship was not sexual in nature, and it served my parents well in their guardianship case, though no longer valid.
As a disabled woman, the difference between sexual preying on and sexual harassment could be no more distinct. As a woman, I expect men to leave my baby making tools alone because I’ve already got someone. I expect the men in the world to keep their hands off, and putting their hands on me between my legs, below the waist, etc., that could be classified as sexual harassment. Groping is a form of harassment, plain and simple. I’m also very serious because of experience. I’ve never been raped, and I’ve seen eyewitness accounts of such, but sexual preying on to me is when the woman is purely violated beyond belief. IN this case, the man will have used grooming, a technique in which isolation, secrecy, and finally, unwanted intercourse or groping of sexual spare parts, is used to silence and denigrade the woman, especially if she has a disability. Grooming can occur if the balance of power is off by a lot, especially if an intellectually able man is groping a woman with Down’s in the case of Law and Order Special Victims Unit’s Katie Talbert. She was taken advantage of by her boss, an able guy who later needed to pay her back, and had to anyway because he was sleeping with Katie and other intellectually disabled women in his store. He operated this outfit for his own benefit, and groomed the girls to secrecy, and to the detriment of Katie’s mom, got her pregnant. However, blindness is not an intellectual disability, it is a physically known disability that does not affect the balance of power between sexual partners. There are many times disabled women don’t feel safe in ridesharing situations with men, and some Uber drivers have been convicted of either burglary or sexual harassment, which can make any woman, able or not, feel uneasy. When a woman is not able to drive, however, she can easily be preyed upon or harassed by a man if she doesn’t have the solutions and tools to stop it.
So how do you stop sexual preying upon or harassment from happening if you’re a lady? Men also experience this, but since women have a much more painful consequence, forgive me but that is who I usually address first. First, rape aggression defense classes for girls 12 and older are offered by local police officials in their respective departments. Officers teach girls things like how to keep a boundary bubble around them, when and how to gauge comfort with a stranger standing in said bubble, how to defend themselves in cases of rape or being touched in an unwanted way. Women and girls 12 and up are welcome to take the classes, and some small organizations like the Denver Muslim community or the Tallahassee Florida Catholic Student Union have offered ladies’ self defense classes, but what about including women with disabilities? Blind women should especially try reading the book Safe Without Sight, which was written years ago, but still has many valid points and debunks many myths and facts about rape. I took the Hadley self defense class, but never got the physical practice doing it. One RAD trick I was told would work is if I had a key, which I happened to own two keys for my dwelling, I would take said key or keys and stab the attacker in the eye. Combined with a technique recommended in self defense class called holding the universal reference point, located between neck and head on either shoulder, I may be able to execute a strong blow to a guy whose intent is to violate me. THat is, of course, a last resort. We were also taught parries and thrusts and punches and how to scream at every move we made. Our voices are the most powerful weapon we possess, and if a woman screams loud enough, a man might just have to run for his life. There’s many tricks that ancient Somali women have played on men before, stuff that involves a squeeze to the groin, which is another self defense technique. WHen a man’s groin is squeezed, he gets into a lot of pain and faints. Again, a last resort. The very first line of defense we learn in RAD or any self defense course, able or not, is setting boundaries and using safety tricks and tips that can potentially keep our baby makers clear of any unwanted guests.
The best line of defense, especially for a woman who is cognitively disabled, is to be sure that her care professionals are female with very few exceptions. IF a woman must be lifted by, say, a power lifter, a man may be hired, but not to do things like dressing and bathing a woman. Females are generally care driven beings, believe me I’m one of those. Women can use this role to care for others, to serve as many different things in many different capacities, but should be caring for females in positions where bathing, dressing, and medicating are required. I’ve seen a male ER nurse before, Bill, a guy from Parrish Medical Centre, but he was great. Bill gave me a shot of adavan, an IV drug that subdued my seizure in 2007. However, he did not have to see me undressed, and that’s where my boundaries are ccrossed. No male nurse should be bathing or showering a female with a disability, cogniscent or not. Even if the woman has an aggressive form of MS, and if she can’t speak in words, guys should never be left alone with her. Here’s another SVU scenario: a disabled lady is found beaten up and bloodied in a dress, an adult diaper beneath it. She is totally paralyzed, can’t move, can only blink or groan, etc. HEr sister beats her and steals her money. A male bus driver is later found to be raping her, and thinks she is comfortable with it because she didn’t say anything. THis is preying upon. Just because a woman with a cognitive or physical disability doesn’t say anything doesn’t mean it’s okay for a male caregiver or professional to do whatever with her. And the sad thing is that family in this vignette can’t care for her because her sister is aggressive with her, but as long as there is blood attachment such as a nephew in the case of the woman in SVU, a male caregiver may be assigned. However, as a precaution, the male should NEVER under any circumstance look at her undressed. A female nurse may be hired, and with good background, to change, feed, or bathe said member of the family.
Sexual advances on females with disabilities could lead to tragedy as well. I remember one woman who was probably the victim of sexual abuse by her own family, as another friend described. This woman, Kelly M. Bond, died of an apparent misuse of her medications. The family should have known better than to make illicit advances and devalue her or denigrade her character. Kelly is now in Heaven with God, where the pain can no longer be felt, and she shed her disabled body in the worst possible way, but as God always does, he delivered her.
So what should be done with a disabled female who has no cognitive skills to tell you she’s been abused? By taking the precautions in the previous paragraph, I feel about 80% of that risk can be diminished. However, a bus driver can still have access to handicapped women. One can tell when even the most cognitively disabled lady has been violated. For example, in the previous vignette, the police found a girl who cringed at the picture of the rapist. SHe saw the suspect’s photo and made a sound like she wanted help or like an anxious puppy wanting to get away from an abusive master. That’s a clue that she could have been denigraded or violated, even if the lady can’t speak for herself. In Katie’s case, she knew something weird was going on, and was high functioning. She worked at a grocery store, a boss taking advantage of her. HEr mom forbade her from taking dating and sex ed classes, and she was later abandoned by her mother, but not without the help of SVU detectives. Katie was found to be carrying a baby son, but would she be able to understand what is happening to her? HEr mother successfully hid all the knowledge Katie must need for her to understand sex and pregnancy. When I was young, my parents hid a book around the house, Asking About Sex and Growing Up. They wanted to show me stuff, sure, but they decided to let me read a good book by the author and creator of the Magic Schoolbus series. Joanna Cole also had a bunch of resources for books and videos geared toward kids and adults alike. Sex and pregnancy are important subjects that ALL kids, whether disabled or not, should be talking about. FAmily life discussions can happen anywhere, and I suggest having a good private discussion with a disabled child especially with a qualified female healthcare educator. If I have a daughter with disabilities, and she’s thirteen, for instance, I’m going to give her “The Talk”, as Mia would call it in the Princess Diaries series. So what if Mia and Tina decide on this, and what if the matter is beneath me, I still need to know how to do this. Even if my child is blind, I’m still going to tell her what the period feels like, what pregnancy can do, how to put on a pad, what to do if a boy approaches you inappropriately, what is inappropriate touch, etc. Women with disabilities are often left out of the conversation because we are devalued, but if we didn’t have ovaries, we couldn’t be pregnant. That would mean we could still do something, but with no results. However, about 90%, factoring in those who had ovarian issues or cancer, can get pregnant. We don’t have freemartins, as in Brave New World’s view of the factory assembly of a person. We have just about every female as a fertile female, so I’m assuming about 90% of young women have able ovaries. PCOS women should always consult a doctor before going on drugs to calm the cysts in their ovaries, but there is a growing number of those women who are having children, but that is a story for another day.
Women with the more physical disabilities can have sexual desires, so why are men taking advantage of this? IF a girl asks, why is he making eyes at me?, why not explain not that he “likes” her, but that she has to feel safe in order for him to actually “like” her. Even if my future daughter had no disability, I would still do “the Talk”, keep your baby maker out of the way of the boys, don’t let them do a thing down there, and don’t show your breasts or buttocks in public period. Then, I would apply the necessaries: how to put on a pad, and if a boyfriend should show up at my house, I’m going to say the three words he may hate, but may save me from being Grandma too early: use a condom. Use a condom or I’m putting this girl on the Pill. I happen to think of the Pill as a lifeline, a safety net and not an excuse to make taxpayers pay for sex as Rush likes to emphatically joke. It is awful, absolutely awful, when a woman with a disability is totally left out of the conversation of sexual stuff because we are the very pinnacle of relationships, we carry the good and the bad guys in to this dirty planetary mess, so why aren’t we being given better status?
The answer is something Dr. George Wong would say in SVU, because so many of us are devalued. Dr. Wong tells the detectives why the sister was aggressive with the paralyzed lady, and the sister made excuses for hitting the lady with soap. Dr. wong saw the same pattern of abuse in the suspected rapist, who said he felt sorry, so preyed on the porr woman with what could have been a deadly weapon.
SHeltering doesn’t cure the disabled’s being prone to being sexually joked about. Believe me, I know firsthand. The best proposed solutions for keeping women with disabilities involved involves the knowledge of sex, pregnancy, and prevention.
Sarah, I hope this doesn’t ramble down Memory Lane too much, but see where I stand.