Discussions about the oppression that disabled women face.
Although I do not have a direct relationship to violence against women with disabilities, this particular topic struck my attention. I chose to research this topic because throughout the past term, many discussions about the oppression that disabled women face have arisen. Within these discussion I have felt very interested and amazed to discover the lack of accommodation that disabled women face. However, my knowledge of this oppression has been limited to the areas of limited accessibilities and the struggles to fit into the norm of society. Through simple common sense I have come to the conclusion that women with disabilities can and probably do encounter more abuse in relationships than non-disabled women but I am not sure to what extent it exists and how often it occurs. In class and tutorials disabilities have been openly discussed, unfortunately with no direct focus on my concerns about violence. Furthermore, I am particularly interested in gaining knowledge about the extent of the abuse that occurs within disabled relationships and a woman’s options within an abusive relationship. Also, I wish to gain knowledge about what is being done to help disabled women who have been shown violence and the steps that the justice system takes to punish the abuser.
In my first article that I chose to discuss, Issue of sexual and physical violence against the disabled, many of my topic focuses were addressed. With regards to my concerns over the extent of the abuse, the article brought forth the alarming rates of violence that takes place against women with disabilities. Types of violence that vary from actual sexual abuse to verbal abuse to neglect and abandonment are important issues discussed that disabled women face today. New knowledge of the acceptability of violence in society, has challenged my views of what I believed is tolerable in within a variety of communities. To read about a case in which a man pressures his wife to commit suicide because she was a burden and both the community and justice system believe that a six month sentence is a sufficient punishment, challenges my beliefs that our society has evolved and become more acceptable of those different from the norm. I am also concerned in understanding the steps that are being taken to help disabled women in abusive situations. The article addresses this question while clarifying the lack of help and the additional barriers that are put on disabled women who wish to leave an abusive relationship. Not only do they have barriers such as finding accessible shelters but also the possibility of not being considered a “capable” parent alone and losing their children. Overall, this article clarifies and addresses a range of questions that others as well as myself may hold about violence against women with disabilities. I do not believe that there is any key information missing from this particular article but I do believe that it would be more effective if more real life cases had been discussed.
The article Opening the doors: addressing the sexual abuse of women with an intellectual disability, communicates particularly information about violence against women with intellectual disabilities. Being my favourite article, it addresses, clarifies or challenges all of the focus questions that I hold. Beginning with a real life story of the abuse of an intellectually disabled woman Lori Jones, it provides a variety of reasons why intellectually disabled women are vulnerable to abuse. Although there are no specific statistics of abuse within the article, it proves an understanding of how these types of cases are handled. While intellectually disabled women are dependent both physically and financially on their families, posses a lack of decision making power and have a low self-esteem, even if they do decide to report abuse false assumptions often arise. Further more my questions about the justice system were addressed and clarified. To my surprise, where I believed otherwise, the justice system assumes that the victim does not need to be questioned because she will not be able to communicate her concerns while also ignoring many other standard procedures. However what made this my favourite article was that is presented both the negative and positive aspects of this issue. It proved a clear list or workshops and conventions that are being held in society to help not only disabled women but also to help communities understand the disabled. This article was able to add to the information that I already had about what is being done to help physically abused disabled women. Once again, there is no key information missing from this article and I believe that it is actually more informative than the others as it informed the reader that although society is still far away from truly being able to help disables women; our community is taking steps to accomplish this.
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My final article Women with disabilities: a time for change, does not specifically focus on just violence towards disabled women but it also discusses issues that lead up to that violence. It is able to clarify that it is because of society’s obsessions of perfection, the lack of education for disabled women and the implied meaning of sexually as “having sex” that portrays disabled women as non-human objects. Since society does not see disabled women as being human they are often shown cruel behaviours and sexual abuse. Moreover, due to this non-human treatment of disabled women, society accepts the violence that is shown towards them. In addition, my question of the extent of which violence is shown towards disable women is presented reporting large percentages and rates at which these women are being mistreated. Shocking statistics reporting only three accessibly assistance institutes in a large city such as Winnipeg, challenge my beliefs and answer my question about the availability of help that is offered. Since this article is very statistically bases, the only thing that I believe is missing is clear statistics on cases that have been through the judicial system and the interest that the system takes in such cases. Although it is clear that such information may not be easily available to due to the lack of cases that are reported, I believe that more information about the actions of the judicial system would have made the article more compelling.
Cathy McPherson’s Violence Against Women with Disabilities: Out of Sight, Out of Mind, challenges the reader to fight against the abuse that disabled women experience. McPherson takes an overall look at disabled women in Canada and does not discriminate by identifying with any specific race. There is a clear understanding within the article that the Canadian society is not well-informed about issues relating to disabilities and the popular view is to hold these women as non-human. Instead of providing the assistance that disabled women require to live a normal life, society oppresses them and makes them vulnerable to violence. Understanding and using an integrated feminist perspective, I am able to relate that through not allowing disabled women to flourish and by holding them back from accomplishing what they are capable of, society is oppressing them. McPherson points out that primarily most disabled women are held back from a normal education, one that provides them with information about sexual intimacy. This information could be crucial if at any time a disabled woman finds herself in an abusive situation. Not only will she have an understanding of what is happening to her but she may prevent the situation by being aware of her options to fight back. Furthermore, this article also brings into play the role of power. A disabled woman is often very dependant on either a husband, relative, caregiver or friend. She requires their care, their income and if married, simply the man in order to be with her children. The power in any relationship a disabled women holds is given to their partner. If she decides to report any form of violence, she may have nowhere to go, be poverty stricken or risk the chance of never seeing her children again. When her option becomes to risk all that she may end up in either an institution where again, all power will be given to her caretaker who may abuse her again or in front of a justice system who will dismiss her case. My feminist perspective allows me to recognize the issues of oppression and power within this article. Using that knowledge with no power over her life and no money to support herself, until society decides to provide further assistance to disabled women they will always be stuck between some kind of barriers.
In her second article Tackling violence against women with disabilities, Cathy McPherson discusses issues that are similar to her previous article. While in the previous article problems that disabled women face were discusses, this article focuses on ways in which society can tackle those problems. The problem once again arises with the fact that disabled women are different. They do not fit the norm of society and are not capable of that which a “normal” woman is. It is true that disabled women are different and they do require special care, however different does not always mean worst. Using a feminist perspective, I am able to examine the relations of difference, especially different needs that McPherson points out in her article. A list of solutions is set out by the author to the problems of violence that face disabled women today. Solutions that require different treatments of disabled women from that of “normal” women, but also treatments that view disabled women as equals not non-human. Disabled women should be given equal accessibility to shelters and have their rights protected as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada. Caretakers should be given more careful screenings, more money should be put into the hands of the disabled and self-defense should be taught to boost these women’s self-esteems. However from a feminist perspective, the most important reform lays in the justice system. It is the male that is often accommodated instead of the female victim because as the accused he is considered to have more to lose. Males have always had an upper hand in any situation when it involves a woman and with a disabled woman it seems that this upper hand is even stronger. A feminist perspective has allowed me to see the differential treatment that is shown towards disabled women in relations to violence. I believe that McPherson does not leave anything out of the article as she discusses the majority of solutions to problems that abuses disabled women face in today’s society.
My final article is about a disabled women who not only faces the issue of violence as a disabled woman but also as an African American woman. Cheryl Green’s article One Resilient Baby, tries to represent disabled women with qualities of strength and power. Green focuses on African American disabled women because she is of that decent and identifies African Americans with her own experiences. While society’s popular understanding would group disabled women of all races together, Cheryl Green as an African American woman felt it necessary to separate herself from that category. Although this is the case, Green does not fail to mention the while disabled women which mentored her thought her life. In her experiences she not only had to deal with violence against her as a disabled woman but also the racism that was part of her daily life. A feminist perspective helped me understand the themes of relations of difference and oppression that are presented in Green’s article. In regards to the theme of relations of difference Cheryl Green is not only different from the norm of society in terms of her disability but also in terms of her race. Coming from a culturally proud family Green was treated differently and perhaps seen as a disgrace to her culture. This inevitably lead to the emotional abuse she received from her uncle and the physical and sexual abuse from the African American men. In terms of oppression, Green was mainly oppressed by her family. She was expected to be a “Black Superwoman,” but was never given to opportunity to do so. The sexual abuse against her was ignored, furthermore holding her back from living a normal life. Green faced many of the issues discusses in McPherson’s articles. She did not have anyone to turn to after the violence and she was not treated as an equal human being. However Cheryl Green through her own determination was able to overcome the barriers that were place in front of her and her story is one of inspiration to any disabled woman who has been in a similar situation. Due to my feminist perspective I cannot dismiss the lack of inclusion of violence against other races as well. However, I believe that it would not have been appropriate in this article to include other races as Green cannot identify with them. A stronger mention of other races could have been made but since Green’s story of violence was a search of her own identity, taking a black feminist approach suit this article.
I can truthfully state that I was made aware of many issues throughout this research process. Previous to my research I assumed many matters that I was wrong about. Firstly, I believed that violence against women with disabilities did not occur very often and was not a major problem within society. Secondly, my assumption was that there were many institutions willing to provide their services if such an incident did occur. Finally, I was positive that if the institutions did not take care of the issue then the justice system was sure to handle the case. Since then, there have been large shifts in my assumptions. I am now repulsed with the knowledge that I have about the extent of the violence that occurs and its acceptance by society. I am not able to realize why many cases go unheard as disabled women have no institutions to turn to for help. Furthermore, my assumptions of the justice system have been challenged and it has become clear that not only is the system not very helpful but sometimes even ignorant to the situation. There has been one important challenge to what I have taken for granted and that is my accessibility to sex education. It is thanks to my knowledge of sex that I , unlike a disabled woman know when I am being violated and know hot to take measures to escape abuse. Consequently, one of the questions that I would like answered is the actual extent of information that is presented to disabled women about sex education. I would also be interested in finding out what services are available to abused women with disabilities in Hamilton and my surrounding area. Finally, in the area of the justice system I would like to pursue actual cases where disabled women were abused and find out what steps were taken to achieve justice. My research process has been one of extensive knowledge and inspiration to stand up for this issue of violence. I can most definitely say that I will be looking into further details about this topic and hopefully involving myself in dealing with some of the issues that disabled women face.
Women and Girls with Disabilities Organization. “Issue of sexual and physical violence against the
disabled.” Women and Girls with Disabilities: Defining the Issues 4 (1999): 1
Melanie Panitch, Miriam Ticoll. “Opening the doors: addressing the sexual abuse of women with an intellectual disability.” Canadian Woman Studies 13(4) (Summer, 1993):84
Emily, A Ternette. “Women with disabilities: a time for a change.” City Magazine 14(4) (Winter 1994):
Cathy McPherson. “Violence Against Women with Disabilities: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”
Women’s Studies 1A06: Women in Canadian Society (January 2003): 209
Cathy McPherson. “Tackling Violence against Women with Disabilites.”
Women’s Studies 1A06: Women in Canadian Society (January 2003): 211
Cheryl Green. “One Resilient Baby.” Women’s Studies 1A06: Women in Canadian Society
(September 2002): 99