There’s a lot of talk of rape and sexual assault in my Facebook feed thanks to the fact that we still have to explain what rape and sexual assault is to some people.
You know who I’m talking about.
As a woman, I am concerned. As a mom to sons, I have done my best to teach them right and wrong, consent and not consent. If a girl says “no” or “stop” to anything – being tickled, a cup of tea, singing “Don’t Stop Believing” at her – it means No and Stop. Stop singing at her. Don’t force the tea on her. Stop tickling her.
And then I look at my daughters, and I know that not every parent is teaching their sons the things I’ve taught mine.
I read yet another campus rape statistic as my older daughter talks about what college she wants to go to and a bolt of fear races through me. I have asked her flat out “You do know how to knee a guy in the groin, right?” Her father shows her self-defense moves. I’ve told her how if she’s ever being followed by a guy, to yell “Stop following me you pervert!” as yelling and drawing attention is a good thing. My daughter is not a meek person. But I worry for her.
And then, there’s Maura. And the fear I have for her sister multiples and almost paralyzes me.
I have one daughter who can defend herself and I worry for her. But I have another daughter who can’t defend herself, who I’m supposed to place into the care of strangers, and the terror is enough to floor a person.
I went to look up the stats for this piece, and the second hit in my search was from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, and it read as follows –
“People with disabilities experience domestic or sexual violence at a higher rate than people without disabilities. Here are some of the grim statistics:
- Dr. Brian Armour of the Centers for Disease Control has found that women with a disability are significantly more likely than women without a disability to experience domestic violence in their lifetime, 37.3% vs. 20.6%. Women with a disability are much more likely to have a history of unwanted sex with an intimate partner, 19.7% vs. 8.2% (Armour, 2008).
- 80% of women and 30% of men with intellectual disabilities have been sexually assaulted. 50% of those women have been assaulted more than ten times (Sobsey & Doe, 1991; Sorenson, 2000).
- 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Stimpson & Best, 1991). Only 3% of sexual abuse cases involving people with developmental disabilities are ever reported (Valenti-Hein and Schwartz, 1995).
- 54% of boys who are Deaf have been sexually abused, compared to 10% of boys who are hearing. 50% of girls who are Deaf have been sexually abused, compared to 25% of girls who are hearing (Sullivan, Vernon & Scanlan, 1987).”
I looked around the internet some more and these were pretty much the same numbers everywhere.
I have a daughter who has an 83% chance of being sexually assaulted. If that doesn’t make you throw up in your mouth a little, then you’re not fully human.
I don’t even know what to say. You want to know what keeps me awake at night? Stuff like this. You want to know why I have never-ending anxiety over my disabled daughter’s life? It’s not over if she’ll ever be independent, or if she’ll ever learn to read. No, it’s statistics like this. It’s knowing that the abuse rates of every kind are disgustingly higher for her, and yet I have to breathe through my fears and place her into the hands of strangers and pray they do well by her. I have to trust that other parents have taught their sons and daughters how to understand “no” and “stop” and how to be kind to those who struggle more than them, and stand up for those being bullied or tormented by peers. I have to read news stories about special ed students being abused one way or another, read stories about unconscious college girls being sexually assaulted, and realize that if any of this happens to my disabled daughter and there’s no good Samaritans to intervene, I may never know, because my disabled daughter can’t tell me. And I wonder, if she is assaulted in any way, will we be believed? Or will it be a case of “She can’t give her side of the story, so we’ll just listen to the accused’s side of the story.”?
Because there’s an 83% chance of such a thing happening to her.
Do we live our lives in fear? Do we hide our daughter from the world?
Do I have a cold streak of fear flash through me at that 83% chance?
I’ve often said that having a child with special needs is like dealing with PTSD, except you’re never “post” anything. This is one of those things that keeps me from getting post-stress.