The everyday assault of disabled women: ‘It’s inappropriate sexual touching at least once a month’

By Lucy Webster: For Complete Post, click here…

They are almost twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as non-disabled women. Why is so little being done to address this harrowing, pervasive problem?

Amy Kavanagh is as happy as anyone else that the world is opening up – but there is one thing she is not thrilled to be experiencing again. “As much as I’m excited to be getting out and socialising again, it comes at a cost,” she says. Kavanagh is blind and sexual harassment is as frequent in her everyday life as it is disturbing. “I get harassed in public, on the street, in shops, on public transport, in cabs and even in professional environments. Pre-pandemic, I experienced inappropriate sexual touching at least once a month,” she says.

While there has been a renewed focus on women’s safety since the deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, little attention has been paid to the harassment and violence faced by disabled women. Yet women with a disability are almost twice as likely to have experienced sexual assault (5%) as women without a disability (2.8%), according to ONS data for the two years to March 2020. This is not an anomaly; in the previous three years, the figure was 5.7%. In 2021, a survey of more than 1,000 disabled women carried out by the Trades Union Congress found that 68% had experienced sexual harassment at work. The figures constitute a hidden blight on disabled women’s lives.

Kavanagh says men often target her under the guise of assistance. “A typical experience is that someone offers to help me cross a road and, whether or not I accept, they grab me by the arm and refuse to let go. Often they will use this opportunity to touch my breasts, make inappropriate comments about my sexuality or physical appearance, or ask me personal questions about my body,” she says. She is certain that men target her because she is blind. “I can’t easily identify them, I can’t see them coming or know if they are following me or watching me.”

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