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23 Responses

  1. Anna
    Anna April 5, 2010 at 12:21 pm |

    Highly unhappy with that diagram as it suggests there are categories of rape/sexual assault that are of differing severity..

  2. Anna
    Anna April 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm |

    Oh abby. <3 This post is like a punch in the gut.

    To add to it, if I may – although it stands on its own, I just want to add some personal experience here.

    Women like me aren’t believed when we talk about sexual assault because we all know that crazy women are just attention-seekers who don’t really need help. They “act out”, they “indulge in risky sexual behaviours”, they “do it for the attention”. When I tried to talk to a psychiatric care nurse once about my trip to the Sexual Health Clinic, relating it to my sexual assault, I was told “Well, don’t keep doing bad things just to get their attention, no matter how nice and supportive you think they are.”

    Because I woke up one morning and decided to get myself raped to get attention from the Sexual Health Clinic.

    But, you know, crazy women. We’re just in it for the thrill of the STI exam.

  3. Anony Mouse
    Anony Mouse April 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    Is there some kind of key or explanation for the diagram that we could see? I’m not sure how to interpret it.

  4. abbyjean
    abbyjean April 5, 2010 at 12:36 pm |

    oh goodness – the diagram was an afterthought to the piece and i certainly don’t want it to be the focus of discussion. to me, the diagram shows various forms of oppression in the center, all of which combine to heighten vulnerability. on the outside is the continuum of sexual violence, ranging from non-assault (sexualized depictions in the media, sexist jokes, etc) to violations of bodily integrity (all of which i would classify as assault of equal severity). the point is just that more oppression leads to more vulnerability to sexual violence – that’s it.

  5. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis April 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm |

    Word to this post abbyjean.

    With the way PWD are desexualized, I’m not surprised anymore when I see comment about how when we are assaulted, at least we are lucky to get some and it sickens me.

    People already seem to feel an entitlement to the bodies of PWD, to know about or medical issues, personal history and so on and that just seems to combine with sexism to create a breeding ground for the idea that we aren’t really human, just things to be used.

  6. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin April 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm |

    This post speaks to me in so many different ways I’m not sure where to begin.

    I myself have struggled with bipolar disorder for over a decade, and have experienced the same treatment from other people, particularly from relationship partners who by in large didn’t necessarily love me as much as I loved them, but kept me around anyway because I stroked their egos so hard. I felt so bad about myself that I would take any attention at all, even if it was highly conditional and required I jump through hoops to attain it.

    I carry with me a tremendous amount of guilt and shame based on how I was perceived during both manic episodes and depressive episodes. The way I felt during those episodes was bad enough, but add to it the way I was perceived and it was doubly awful. The manic episodes in particular were so destructive but no matter where I was it was difficult to find people who had the ability to see past my illness and in so doing treat me with respect. There were also those who could only see the illness and acted accordingly.

    I was sexually assaulted much earlier, in childhood, but as I think back on it, a then-undiagnosed anxiety disorder and underlying depression probably made me a much easier target.

    Thank you for sharing this, Abby Jean.

  7. Ashley
    Ashley April 5, 2010 at 3:21 pm |

    Wow this is a lot of good, important information. Thanks for posting this.

  8. annaham
    annaham April 5, 2010 at 4:14 pm |

    Abby, I don’t have enough spoons today to say much of consequence, but this is an amazing post (just like all of your other posts). Thanks for writing it, and I am so glad to see it here on Feministe!

  9. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale April 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm |

    I’m not able to muster a cogent response to this right now, but I am very glad to see this said here. Excellent post.

  10. Dominique
    Dominique April 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm |

    @Anna – This: “Women like me aren’t believed when we talk about sexual assault”. It’s one of the worst possible feelings in the world, enough to compound despair. Even when women *don’t* have a diagnosis of a mental illness they are too seldom believed; or, conveniently for the rapist, a diagnosis is conferred upon them. Discredit, discredit, discredit: what power does to truth.

  11. Kowalski
    Kowalski April 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm |

    Thank you abby jean for writing this, and thank you Cara for posting it!!!

    This is exactly why I get so angry when feminist blogs allow ableism (and transphobia and racism). Bigotry is always infuriating but on feminist blogs it is intolerably so, because it says “we only care about the human rights of white non-disabled cis women”, which is *not* feminism.

  12. Atheistchick
    Atheistchick April 5, 2010 at 9:20 pm |

    Thank you for writing this. While I am familiar with some of the powerlessness that people with mental illnesses or physical impairments face, I never thought very critically about the relationship between “disabilities” and vulnerability to sexual assault before, especially the relationship between a mental illness and sexual assault. Very powerful idea.

  13. BW
    BW April 5, 2010 at 9:33 pm |

    Thank you.

  14. bellareve
    bellareve April 5, 2010 at 11:08 pm |

    Thank-you. I am a feminist with multiple disabilities, and a rape survivor. My experiences are quite similar to what you have described here.

  15. Chally
    Chally April 6, 2010 at 4:27 am |

    Thank you for this, abby.

  16. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm |

    This was an amazing post. I would love to see people expand on this to address various flavors of “disability” and assault — do people with particular disabilities get assaulted in particular ways more often, for example? Does society sympathize with the rape of a blind woman more than a “crazy” one? Etc.

    (Also, and this isn’t directly relevant to this particular post, but it got me thinking: it would be interesting to see something about the converse of this, where the “disabled” person is the abuser — not as far as rape, necessarily, but other tactics. Particularly with mental illness it seems like it’s easy to hurt the people around you. You get the guys who don’t understand boundaries and cues, for example, who then get pushy or aggressive with women. Or my friend’s neighbor, who was physically a large man but mentally stuck in that sort of selfish, childish mind-set. Or in my case, where undiagnosed various things made me behave just horribly to my little sister when we were kids — and she was in no position to deescalate either, and often flipped out just as much, the two of us having a lot in common.)


  17. abby jean
    abby jean April 6, 2010 at 8:33 pm |

    Bagelsan – i’m glad you like the post. however, your statement that “Particularly with mental illness it seems like it’s easy to hurt the people around you” is one that i consider to add to the ableist assumptions that make people with mental illness particularly vulnerable to rape and sexual assault. that kind of broad generalization helps entrench stereotypes that people with mental illness are violent or predatory, which helps rapists justify their abuse of such people. i don’t consider this thread an appropriate place for that kind of harmful generalization.

  18. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 7, 2010 at 3:17 am |

    Hmm, I’m sorry you felt that way. I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t saying that by including my own experience.

  19. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis April 7, 2010 at 7:14 am |

    Well, considering that being told you’ll only hurt others is one of the main ways people with mental illness are stigmatized it seems odd to say we need to talk more about besides breaking it down. Why would we want to reinforce it?

    Also, there has been a lot of writing on the different stereotypes as they relate to different disabilities.

  20. Sarah
    Sarah April 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm |

    Thank you for this article, thank you, thank you…that’s all I gotta say.

  21. Sarah
    Sarah April 7, 2010 at 12:12 pm |

    Something else to add to the thank yous (trigger warning)…when I was a teenager, I lived with my parents in a very nice apartment in an upper-middle neighborhood, and a guy one floor above had been accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl with a mental health history–I think he was her caretaker in some institution. Having been institutionalized for a few days myself, I was sure he’d done it–could see very easily how that could take place under the guise of “check-ups” done every few minutes at all hours on patients on suicide watch. The charges had been dropped. I found this all out through dinner table gossip with my parents, who urged me to be polite and nice to him as always, which led to a fight between me and my parents. Before hearing this story I had once seen him in the hallway and exchanged pleasantries and then he insisted on a hug goodbye–I should have refused, but didn’t, and during the hug he was grunting, like “oh, yeah”, I didn’t feel a hardon but could tell he was turned on. I told no one about this, but years afterwards, as an adult living on my own, I told my mom, and she changed her mind about his being innocent regarding the other girl.

  22. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm |

    i don’t consider this thread an appropriate place for that kind of harmful generalization.

    Yeah, I certainly wasn’t intending to get into it on this thread. My thinking was more a discussion *among* people with disabilities rather than *about*, more of an introspective thing. I’m thinking of, for example, PWD being hurt by other PWD, especially people with mental health issues; when it’s a whole family and multi-generational you get feedback loops of trouble that can result in basically *everyone* in that situation getting hurt.

    33% of abusers are acquaintances; 33% of them are natural or foster families

    The above was where I’m coming from — I know tons of people with mental health issues who have been mistreated by their parents/sig. others who *also* have mental health issues. When it’s fairly heritable you get a lot families where no one has their shit entirely together. (Whether it’s a side effect of being in pain, or not being great with other people, or medications, or internalized ableism, whatever, you can get clumps of people all suffering without any help from “able” types at all.)

    But yeah, I wasn’t intending to get into a huge discussion about it. I just thought that it would be interesting to look at the other side of the coin, PWD as victims of the able and PWD as victims of each other.

  23. Grant
    Grant April 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    Regarding the diagram– sexual violence is an umbrella term that often describes a category of behaviors ranging from rape-supportive jokes, to harassment, to physical acts of sexual assault. This diagram is a tool for discussing those range of behaviors while also framing sexual violence within a context of oppression, and illustrating the root causes of sexual violence (sexism, racism, ableism, etc).

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