I am in a bad mood

Before my pregnancy with Zy I was running a drama program that included several young adults with disabilities. When I was pregnant with Zy I handed this class over to a friend and colleague. That person has recently been unable to teach, so I have stepped in again, temporarily. As well as the 15 students I know well from the "early days", there are 4 students whom I had not met before. Three of these students require additional support so as to fully participate in class, and that support is provided by someone from a disability service.

Last week, I noticed one of these students displaying slightly inappropriate (sexualised) behaviours towards her support person. This week, the behaviours has escalated to the point where they were impacting upon the class. I spoke with the student and her support person, and to cut a very long story short - the support person had no training as to how to respond to inappropriate behaviours, the student had no sexuality education as to what is and isn't appropriate and the service did not want to know about it. It seemed that the more I tried to talk to the service, the less receptive they were to listening.

I was disheartened by my experience with this service, but surely not all disability service providers in my area are so ignorant when it comes to sexuality education? I called a few other services to ask about their sexuality education programs and/or policies. Not one of them acknowledged sexuality education as something they provide to their clients or staff. Some even laughed at the suggestion that this kind of education is important.

Sexuality education for people with disabilities is something that I used to facilitate (as my job) on a very regular basis, and only stopped because of time constraints. I am utterly devastated that something of such value and importance seems now to be all but non existent. I know used to feel frustrated at the lack of knowledge and understanding service providers, parents and carers had around what sexuality education is and why it is so important - but it was balanced out by the feeling of empowerment I would get from being able to share this information with people.

Now I just feel frustrated.

And I don't get it.

I really do not understand how people can be so ignorant and unwilling to change.

Did you know that 83% of women with a disability will be sexually assaulted in their life time?

Eighty. Three. Percent.

That's more than eight in ten.

I do not understand how people can hear that statistic and not be so disgusted and so outraged that they take action.

I do not understand how people in human services, who's job it is to support and advocate for people, can hear that statistic and not even acknowledge that something has to be done.

Something more.

Something different.

Just something.

So I am in a bad mood, and everything that is wrong with this picture is running around and around in my head.

I feel overwhelmed and dis-empowered and frustrated and angry.

And I have nothing else to offer yet.

When I can turn my thoughts around and find something other than what is wrong with this situation, I'll be sure to post that as well.

But for now, I am in a bad mood.


Fe said...

Bloody Hell.

I am. Disgusted and outraged, that is.

How can I help?


Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

I hear ya. Oh God how I hear ya.

katepickle said...

I grew up with my Mum working with adults with a range of mental disabilities and the constant battle to get information and education to help both staff, clients and families make informed decisions about sexual issues was ongoing.

It is like the 'powers that be' just don't want to acknowledge that all people are sexual beings, they felt better seeing these adults as 'little kids' because of their disabilities and as such they didn't need or want to think about things like sex. So sad and disheartening.

Arienette said...

Gobsmacked. Absolutely just....gobsmacked.
How is it NOT important? How is it not one of the most important things to be teaching people? We teach it to kids in school, why is it not important to teach to kids or adolescents or grown ups with disabilities? So it's not ok if a normally-abled child or teen is molested or raped, but it's perfectly ok if a differently-abled one is? What? What? I don't even...I don't... I can't even think of words that might begin to possibly perhaps describe how disgusting I find their actions and attitudes.

Debby said...

Wow. That is an amazing story. I guess that I have never thought about it really, but I have a friend with an autistic son, and teaching him how to behave properly in a public setting so as not to draw attention to himself was a big deal. Teaching him how to smile back. Teaching him how to deal with frustration in an acceptable manner. It seems to me that teaching someone appropriate sexual behavior is really no different than that.

Anonymous said...

I so hear your words, oh yeah.

Mountaingirl said...

Just as we teach our own children, we should certainly be teaching those with disabilities - it is unfair to place them in a situation where they may either be abused, or even become an abuser, because they know no better.

I used to work with damaged (but not disabled) young people and inappropriate sexualized behavior was an ongoing issue that continually needed to be addressed.

Not easy, but of so necessary.

Deb said...

Not acceptable, but understandable. My husband worked with people with intellectual and multiple disabilities for over 20 years, one of the continuing themes is infantilisation. Parents, carers, sometimes even the clients themselves find it easier to deal with the world if they are treated as children. It might have changed, but even the art on the walls of group homes - clowns.
And it's hard to change from the inside - people know it is a problem, but if you push to do anything about it you are classed as the deviant. He faced discrimination and was investigated because he wanted to run sexuality programmes and work with children, so that must have meant something was wrong with him. If that's what the advocates and carers are facing, imagine how hard it must be for the clients themselves.

Mountaingirl said...

Just as an added note to this, on Phillip Adams tonight they are discussing, amongst other things, the rights of people with disabilities to have sex, smoke or whatever. To be fair it isn't the main focus but you can pod it if you want or I am sure a transcript will also be available. Thinking of you as I listen.