Friday, November 25, 2011

White Ribbon Day: Violence against women, disabilities and where to begin

I’m taking a break from writing about a client for a final to writing about a client for my blog. So, it’s kind of like I’m not procrastinating, right?

This is what social work school does to me...
turns me into a 5 year old blonde boy.
Anyway, this paper I am writing which is basically a quick overview of the client and then a discussion of different theories and interventions is depressing me. I’m writing about an African-American woman, around 40 years old, who has become one of my favorite clients (shh, don’t tell). We’ll call her Darla. She is completely blind and was born blind. Because of her disability, her parents neglected her. Her parents left her in her crib sometimes for days. It’s a miracle she survived past infancy.

Because of this neglect, Darla was developmentally delayed and is extremely quiet. She’ll speak ever so often in groups, and it makes me so happy when she does. However, Darla has been severely taken advantage of in his life. The neglectful parents aside, she was frequently molested and beaten in her foster homes. She didn’t know how to tell anyone. She probably didn’t even know it was wrong.

On Twitter earlier today, S.E. Smith posted an article about the increased risk of violence faced by women with disabilities. I am fairly certain that almost every woman in our program has experienced violence and sexual violence. I know for a fact they have all faced emotional violence. They’ve been taken advantage of because of their vulnerabilities. The article posted said some research suggests that nine out of ten developmentally disabled women will experience a sexual assault, and it is universally agreed that most will have to face unwanted sexual contact eventually.

I’ve written previously about rape culture in our society. This kind of abuse and neglect is particularly difficult for me to process because Darla and other clients are so vulnerable. They will always have to depend on people. And most of them, at least in my agency, still have the ability to trust. I am amazed at how Darla, while silent, is so expressive. When we listen to music in group, she is often the first one up dancing. She loves dancing.

Also known as "White Ribbon Day"
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I appreciate the sentiment and all of the hard work behind it, but I am still so angry that we only have one day a year designated for this. Darla, however, is an anchor for me. It’s inspiring to know that someone so beautiful can be born from such ugliness.

I am kind of annoyed with how I’ve been writing about things that are upsetting and leaving the post closed on a negative note. I am a person of action; what are some things we can do now to make the world safer for women and for Darla?

Clarisse Thorn for wrote some great suggestions. I suggest you check out her list, as it encompasses everything I have and then some.
Chris Brown

  • Speak up if you have the voice. It’s not easy. Maggie Kuhn put it best when she said, “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes.”
  • A spade is a spade, rape is rape and assault is assault. It doesn’t matter if the rape occurred while the person was making one of your favorite movies, or exposing Bank of America for the crooks that they are, or writing your favorite pop song.
  • Recognize sexist images. Challenge them.
  • Engage people in discussions about rape culture. Do not fear being “uppity.”
  • Practice radical self-care. Fighting toxic rape culture is a part of that of course, but you cannot be an instrument of change if you allow yourself to burn out.
  • And finally, if you can, offer supportive, healing, caring touch. This sounds bizarre, but Darla cannot get enough touch. I know some folks consider touching clients inappropriate, but a hand on the shoulder or a grip of the hand can go a long way. Of course, with consent. 


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