Monday 4th December, 2023
My friend Meg tells me that it’s always men who grab her wheelchair without asking if she needs any help:
“I was wheeling up a busy street in Manchester, back to my car after a nice lunch with some friends, not struggling, just pushing myself as I usually do. Suddenly I felt extra momentum and looked around thinking “this is weird.” There was a random, fairly young man holding my handles, which were actually folded away. I said “it’s okay, I;ve got it, I don’t need any help thanks” He just ignored me and kept pushing. I said “My friend is there, if I need help, she can help me.” Eventually he let go, looking pissed off! If I wanted help, I’d ask! It’s a massive violation, like grabbing someone’s legs to push them up a hill!”
Meg is spot on, it is a violation and one faced by disabled women at far higher rates than disabled men.
But it’s more than a violation, “helping” is often used by perpetrators as a guise for sexual assault, something disabled women are twice as likely to experience than non-disabled women, so imagine how frightening it must be to be grabbed from behind by a man when you know this, it’s also common for the man to act like a victim when he is asked not to do it. Disabled women also experience more street harassment than disabled men and thus 37% of disabled women say they are afraid of negative comments when they are out and about.
In fact, disabled women face higher rates of all forms of gender based violence than non-disabled women, and higher rates of disability discrimination than disabled men. On average disabled women are paid 35% less than non-disabled men, experience workplace harassment at a rate of 54% and are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse, assault and rape. Worse, upon seeking help for those matters they face additional barriers in terms of accessibility as well as in how they are perceived.
Sources and additional reading:
Factsheet on Domestic Abuse and Disability at https://alwayshopeful.org.uk/resources/