Violence Against Disabled Women – an European report

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While we were at the Screening AccSex event at Leeds University, Sarah Woodin presented the findings of their report Access to Specialised Victim Support Services for Women with Disabilities who have experienced Violence which included guidance from Ruth Bashall and Susie Balderston.

brochure-cover

brochure-cover

This research is investigating violence against disabled women and their access to specialised women’s support services. Funded through the European Commission’s Daphne III programme and with international leadership from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, the project is running from 2013 to 2015 in four countries:

About the research

There are several elements, which include:

  1. Assessment of  the legal and policy framework
  2. Generation of extensive new data from disabled or Deaf women (through focus group discussions, in-depth-interviews) and service providers (online-survey, interviews with staff members), and
  3. Development of good practice examples and recommendations.  

187 disabled women from the four countries took part (106 women in focus groups and 81 women in individual interviews). They included women with mobility or sensory impairments, women with intellectual impairments, women with mental health conditions and women with multiple impairments. Specialised service providers assisting women who have experienced violence also took part in this study (there were in total 602 responses to an online survey and 54 individual interviews with representatives from services). However, the numbers are only provided here as an indication of the scale of the research. The focus was on exploring barriers and issues in depth rather than on recruiting statistically representative samples.

The Problem of Violence against Disabled Women

Disabled women experience a very wide range of types of violence. They report the same types of violence as non-disabled women, but also abuse that is specific to disabled people, and that takes place in a wider range of places and is enacted by more kinds of perpetrators. Domestic violence is substantial and highly damaging for disabled women, but violence also encompasses institutional violence from carers, where women live in residential homes or from assistants where they receive help to live in their own homes. ‘Hate’ violence and crime was also described, where women are abused on the basis of who they are seen to be. Violence is often directed towards perceived areas of weakness, such as attacks that focus on women’s impairments, often arising or increasing at the onset of impairment and at times when women need more help, such as during pregnancy and childbirth or if their residency status is uncertain. Although violence is most prevalent for young adult women, participants report experiencing violence at all stages of the life course and sometimes in many different settings.

Support to Counter Violence

A formidable array of barriers are identified by disabled women in relation to securing assistance and achieving a violence – free life. At a micro, individual level,   the active isolation of women by perpetrators, combined with the inaccessibility of services and a lack of knowledge and capacity to help, all result in keeping disabled women away from support services. Macro level systemic barriers include the ways that funding and administrative regimes combine to make movement away from repeat violence situations very difficult. The project is highlighting the dynamics of this pressing social problem and setting out the steps that need to be taken to prevent and address this abuse. Examples of good practice and innovation in each of the countries are also being documented.

Project Publications

UK Reports and Working Papers

Working Papers:

Brochures

International Project Findings and Publications The main project website is maintained by  the international project co-ordinator, the Ludwig Bolzmann Institute, Austria

The site has reports and other publications from all four counties, in a range of accessible formats.

Screening AccSex London : sexuality and disability & next steps

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Report written by Lani Parker with additions from Eleanor Lisney

People were pleased with the turnout and it was a good opportunity to network and talk to each other.
The film generally had good feedback. There was discussion on many topics, including who the film was
aimed at, the editorial devices which were used (such as changing the subtitles in order to give a “feeling
of exclusion”), and the Indian context. It was felt that it was a good film to get discussion going. We thanked Shweta Ghosh with a little momento (Happy Potter mug) from London.

Next steps

– Michelle and Charlotte had ideas for showing the film in different places and will get in touch with
Shweta to organise purchase of film and further screenings.
–  Shweta said that she will write a booklet to go with the film so that issues which have been commonly brought up at the screenings can be discussed and contextualised.

After the film we had a presentation from Stay Safe East (Ruth Bashall and Lucia Bellini) about their work with disabled women, particularly around domestic violence (their remit is slightly bigger than this). There was discussion on the specialist nature of the work running women’s support groups and the need for further groups like this.

Ruth would like to see the work done around the Serious Crime Bill and domestic violence taken forward to lobby the CPS around their guidance for the bill and they (as Stay Safe East) will be meeting with Women’s Aid shortly. Eleanor and others expressed a wish for Sisters of Frida to be involved with this work.

Eleanor, Ruth and Lucia to take forward work with CPS and Women’s Aid on the issue and the Bill specifically.

There was a discussion about a forum or space for disabled women to talk about sex, sexuality and intimacy. This is a big topic and there are many issues, including lack of information, intersections of identity and oppressions, types of impairments, and PAs’ involvement in relationships. Laki said that there is a need for a physical drop-in as well as information online and perhaps an online forum discussing the issues.

There are many things to consider with an online forum. Ruth said that GAD have a forum but it is by invitation. Seems like a sensible idea to explore along with online safety issues in the future if we were to take forward this idea. The idea would be to have a website and resources, perhaps a forum and an informal drop-in.

–  Laki and Dyi to set up meeting for Sisters of Frida to start to discuss these issues amongst ourselves and to look at collating resources.

–  Ruth to send resources she already has access to.

We discussed about funding and future strategy and future steps.

Engaged Allies: Academia, Activism & Crip Feminist Power

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Reblogged from Kirsty Liddiard who helped in organising this event – with thanks also to Armineh Soorenian (Sisters of Frida North)

photo of participants, some in wheelchairs, all women except for one black man Screening AccSex: Disabled Women Activism & Sexuality event, University of Leeds, 2015

The above photograph represents the end of a brilliant day-long event which I helped co-organise along with some lovely folk from the Centre for Disability Studies at Leeds University and the disabled women’s cooperative, Sisters of Frida (of which I’m a proud member). The day was action-packed: a talk from Sarah Woodin (Leeds University) on disabled women and forms of violence; a presentation on youth, feminism and the cripping of the political/personal dichotomy by Icelandic activists Freyja Haraldsdóttir and Embla Ágústsdóttir and their organisation, Tabu; a UK premiere of Accsex (2014), a film which uncovers the pleasures (and precarities) of the connections between disability, sex/uality, gender, and race; and a Q&A with its creator, film-maker Schweta Ghosh. You can watch the trailer for Accsex (2014) here.

Within stifling dichotomies of normal and abnormal, lie millions of women, negotiating their identities. Accsex explores notions of beauty, the ‘ideal body’ and sexuality through four storytellers; four women who happen to be persons with disability. Through the lives of Natasha, Sonali, Kanti and Abha, this film brings to fore questions of acceptance, confidence and resistance to the normative. As it turns out, these questions are not too removed from everyday realities of several others, deemed ‘imperfect’ and ‘monstrous’ for not fitting in. Accsex traces the journey of the storytellers as they reclaim agency and the right to unapologetic confidence, sexual expression and happiness.

– Ghosh (2014)

A powerful line up makes for a powerful event, in more ways than one. To look again at the photograph, it’s far more than just a shot in time. It represents more than students, lecturers, activists, community members, allies, or otherwise interested people seeking alternative understandings of disability and gender coming together to connect (as if that isn’t exceptional enough). To me, the photograph is emblematic of the exciting possibilities that can emerge when the best parts of academia and activism come together. In this short post, I’d like to very briefly sketch out some points as to what this means to me as a disabled woman and scholar:

Safe(r) Spaces: Firstly, academic/activist events like this show that we can create (and demand) safe(r) spaces to speak about our lives as activists, campaigners, scholars and women.  Events like this offer rare occasions for disabled women and their allies to come together, think together, politicise and rage together, and take solace in sharing intimate knowledges of our lives (that are seldom acknowledged or celebrated anywhere) together.

Resistance and intellectual freedom: In the context of the Academy, the fusion of academia and activism can offer refreshing spaces of resistance, creativity and (intellectual) freedom. Never has this been more important to counter the significant corporatisation and marketisation of higher education in the neoliberal University, and what some have called the privatisation of knowledge. Another recent event I helped organise, Theorising Dis/Ability, worked in similar ways. You can access the talks from the Theorising Dis/Ability seminar here. I’m currently co-organising another event with my friend Jenny Slater (Sheffield Hallam) around the intersections of queer and disability/crip activism, Interrogating queer, crip and the body: an international symposium, for which you can access free tickets here.

Poster : Interrogating queer,crip & the body: An international symposium Interrogating queer,crip & the body: An international symposium

Making space for activist scholarship: For me personally/politically/professionally, academic/activist collaborations enable me to continue the work I love to do. It is a reminder of the importance of activist scholarship, which needs such spaces to not just survive, but thrive. I’m lucky that these loves are nurtured by many, many brilliant colleagues. For example, see the “dishuman” manifesto that I’m working on with exceptional folk like Katherine Runswick-Cole (MMU), Dan Goodley (University of Sheffield) and Rebecca Lawthom (MMU). This work is as theoretically rich as it is grounded in disabled people’s lives and meaningful social and political change.

The politics of visibility and disruption: Most importantly, academic/activist presences like those within the event above solicit/invite/welcome a multitude of bodies, minds, selves, knowledges and politics into the Academy. These are often bodies and selves that are at best tolerated, and at worst violated, in neoliberal educational spaces. To be present in the Academy in such ways – to proudly take up space, make noise, and be disruptive within the the very walls that so often exclude us – affirms Crip feminist power. Crucially, it does so in an academic landscape where we are largely absent as students, let alone as educators, speakers, creators, and leaders.

Tabu: the political is personal

Tabu: the political is personal

Note: This post is dedicated to the memory of Judith Snow who passed away on 31st May 2015. A proud disabled woman, visionary and advocate, she truly changed the world.

Screening AccSex in Leeds: Disabled Women Activism & Sexuality event

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accsex film flyer

accsex film flyer
Disabled Women: Activism and Sexuality

The Centre for Disability Studies (University of Leeds) and Sisters of Frida (North) invite you to

Disabled Women: Activism and Sexuality

Friday 15 May 2015: 12.30-4.30

Liberty Building, University of Leeds, Room G.32

The first part of this event will include presentations from Sarah Woodin (CDS) on disabled women, violence and access to support; and Freyja Haraldsdottir (Tabu) on feminist disability activism in Iceland and the founding of ‘Tabu’ (www.tabu.is)

The second part (after a short lunch-break will include: A screening by Sisters of Frida of  the film, ‘ACCSEX’ – which explores notions of ‘ideal bodies’ (https://vimeo.com/73844999); and discussion led by Kirsty Liddiard (University of Sheffield) and Q&A with Shweta Ghosh (director of the film).

Teas and coffees will be provided but please bring your own lunch.

Location Details

Room G.32 (ground floor)
School of Law
Liberty Building
University of Leeds
LS2 9JT

(Please use postcode LS6 1AN for Sat Nav’s)

The Liberty Building is number 16 on the campus map.

Screening AccSex: Disabled Women Sexuality and Solidarity 16 Saturday 1 pm.

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Accsex

Accsex

Please register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/screening-accsex-disabled-women-sexuality-and-solidarity-tickets-16811051307 Details are on the eventbrite.

Confirmed BSL for discussion!!

Laki

Laki Kaur

We ‘ re also very pleased that Laki Kaur will be joining us and co chairing the discussion with Becky.

Laki is a 25 year old disabled woman , she describes herself as ‘outspoken, positive and love to try new things who loves traveling ‘. She works as a receptionist and loves her job.

Event Details

Sisters of Frida is happy to host AccSex in London. Shweta Ghosh will be there to answer questions co chaired by Lucia Bellini and Becky Olaniyi from Sisters of Frida

View trailer here.

Within stifling dichotomies of normal and abnormal, lie millions of women, negotiating with their identities. Accsex explores notions of beauty, the ‘ideal body’ and sexuality through four storytellers; four women who happen to be persons with disability. Through the lives of Natasha, Sonali, Kanti and Abha, this film brings to fore questions of acceptance, confidence and resistance to the normative. As it turns out, these questions are not too removed from everyday realities of several others, deemed ‘imperfect’ and ‘monstrous’ for not fitting in.Accsex traces the journey of the storytellers as they reclaim agency and the right to unapologetic confidence, sexual expression and happiness.

The experience of minority genders with disability largely reflects double discrimination. In the Indian context, identities and stories are further layered by virtue of diversities in caste, class, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The issues of persons with disabilities are often seen through a welfare approach in laws, programmes and policies. A similar charity-tinted lens is employed by educational books and media texts and a basic reading of these shows how the mildest physical and psycho-social disabilities are viewed as ‘abnormal’.

Accsex has won a number of awards and been part of several festival selections. It has also been used as a strong advocacy and educational material by activists in the field of disability and gender rights. It has been incorporated into the CREA Disability and Sexuality Rights online institute in 2015.

Shweta Ghosh is a documentary filmmaker and researcher. A silver medalist from the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (SMCS, TISS), Mumbai, she has explored her interest in disability, cuisine, travel and music through research and film projects.

Shweta’s debut documentary Accsex, a film exploring notions of beauty, body, sexuality and disability was awarded Special Mention at the 61st Indian National Film Awards 2014 and has been screened across India and abroad. The film has been appreciated for its rights-based approach to disability and sexuality and has been used widely as advocacy and training material by NGOs and academic institutions.

Lucia Bellini works for StaySafe East to tackle violence and abuse against disabled and Deaf people. She spoke for disabled women at Million Women Rise at Trafalgar Square this year.

Becki Olaniyi is a young disabled women. She was on a panel on disability, race and gender at the WOW Festival at the South Bank this year.

We will also be discussing setting up a disabled women group on sexuality, relationships and intimacy.

This event is a women only event intended as a safe space for women to discuss sexuality and disability issues.

Nearest Tube stations

Waterloo Station | Bakerloo, Jubilee, (accessible for wheelchair users)

Lambeth North Station | Bakerloo line

Kennington Station | Northern line

Elephant & Castle | Northern line

Northern, Waterloo & City lines

Buses

3, 59, 159, 360

Lucia Bellini’s speech for Million Women Rise 2015 at Trafalgar Square

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Lucia

Lucia

Sisters of Frida Steering group member, Lucia, spoke for disabled women against domestic violence and violence against women at Million Women Rise at Trafalgar Square. Lucia works to tackle violence and abuse against disabled and Deaf people.

Lucia and Ruth Bashall from StaySafe East

Lucia and Ruth

Eleanor Lisney: ‘when gender, race and disability collide’

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This was the speech by Eleanor at the WOW Festival on the Disability and Feminism panel.

Eleanor Lisney

Eleanor Lisney

The title of this session is ‘resurgence of mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women and discuss what happens when gender, race and disability collide’ – I am going to start with saying that I am not sure we always allow ourselves to be ignored.

Sisters of Frida was started when we realised that there was a noticeable absence of the voices of disabled women. One of the first things we did was to join the UK CEDAW work goup and we went to Geneva so that we have a visible presence to challenge the government on their reforms with other women’s groups such as Southall Black Sisters. We were mostly self funded but we saw that it is essential that disabled women are represented in processes like CEDAW reporting as too often our experience as disabled women is invisible, this is an opportunity to change this and show how the cuts and legal changes are affecting us. When it came to the turn of the shadow report for the CRPD, we realised we were the people with some experience as having been through the CEDAW shadow report process. And by the way the United Kingdom has become the first country to face a high-level inquiry by the United Nations committee responsible for oversight of disability rights into charges of “grave or systemic violations” of disabled people’s rights.

However in the discourse of feminism, disabled women are seldom included, it is true but even so, we are getting invited – we are here at WOW:) but seriously, disabled people are often seen as a ‘burden’ on the feminist from before birth to the older parent often portrayed as with dementia. The decision of aborting a disabled child is seen to be totally understandable, disabled people needs caring for – usually by low paid or unpaid carers where women sacrifice themselves as carers. Disabled women are also seen to be undateable. They are not deemed to be fit to be mothers, they worry about their children being taken into care, or not given custody of their children if there is a marital breakup with a non disabled partner.

There was rejoicing of the series of amendments to the Serious Crime Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, and is expected to be on the statute books this year where under the terms of the Bill a person convicted of coercive control could face up to 14-years in prison and there will be no statutory time limit for the offences, meaning abuse dating back years can be taken into account. Good news for feminists but not so much of a cry when it was found that disabled women would be exempted. Partners of disabled women could avoid domestic abuse prosecution even after ‘coercive control’ is criminalised, the government added an amendment to the proposed law which creates a defence against charges of coercive control by people who take care of disabled partners. If they can convincingly argue that the actions they took were both in the best interests of their partners and “in all the circumstances reasonable”, they will not be prosecuted. There was a consultation but no disabled women / people were asked.

I am sometimes asked: is there a gendered difference in disability campaigning, surely we re all in it together. The division does not help, they say, and even disabled women tell me that. We should look for commonalities. I am not able to respond to that coherently. I think I m more able to respond when it has to do with social justice and the question of race but maybe because nobody has said to me let’s look for commonalities white people and black people both suffer from social justice, why insist on the differences. Certainly no black person.

I would say because there are  differences and we need to speak for disabled sisters because if we don’t who will? Last year I was fortunate enough to speak in the NAWO panel at the Global Summit to end violence against women in conflict – addressing gender equality as the root of all gender-based violence. I am reminded that Women are raped, tortured and killed or left disabled because of their gender. If they survive many can’t go back into society because of the stigma of having been raped, on top of being disabled. There is a gender difference.

As an East Asian disabled woman I can feel the conflict and am pulled in different directions by the different identities. When I m in a disability environment, which is still very white dominated, I ask for black representation, with people of colour, I ask for access and inclusion for disabled people, with feminists, I ask for the same.

– Eleanor Lisney