Dangers For Women With Disabilities

As Judy Rebick (2005) explains; The Disabled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN) was established in June 1985 when a group of feminists with disabilities met in Ottawa to discuss women’s issues. As the organization took shape, DAWN identified six key areas of concern to women with disabilities: mothering, self-image, empowerment, health, sexuality and violence. DAWN’s mission since the beginning has been to end the poverty, isolation and discrimination experienced by women with disabilities. In addition to the discrimination against them as women, which they share with their able-bodied sisters, women with disabilities face massive barriers to their full participation in society (Rebick, 2005, p. 209).

Rebick (2005) also states that; many of DAWN’s founding members were activists frustrated with the sexism of the disability rights movement. But DAWN’s goal of creating a bridge between women with disabilities and the women’s movement was not easily met. By demanding both physical access to women’s services and events and the right to be heard, women with disabilities forced the women’s movement to look at a whole new set of issues. For example, DAWN’s exposure of the widespread violence against women with disabilities added tremendous depth to the feminist analysis of sexual abuse and violence as an issue of power. But despite tremendous progress, the battle for access is ongoing. The women’s movement was less open to women with disabilities than to many other groups. The battle for access has not yet been won (Rebick, 2005, pp. 209-210).

According to Rebick (2005) the strength of the disabled women who formed DAWN Canada was formidable. They also presented an amazing example to the world, because they were the first disabled group to develop. Hearing that a disabled woman could not get into a shelter and had to go back into an environment where a man could hurt her even more or possibly kill her, or that a deaf woman couldn’t get access to a sign language interpreter at a rape crisis center and was turned away, these are the issues that DAWN was trying to correct. The group worked to get a real understanding of the abuse issue and a true acceptance that something must be done about it. They started to see the shelter movement say, the new shelter must be accessible; we must be able to make sure that disabled women can get in here. And the police started calling the group and asking them to come down and teach a course about women and disabilities. As Rebick (2005) quotes “I had one police officer who was almost crying, saying,” “You can’t be telling me that a guy would rape a woman with a disability.” And I said, “Men have raped women with severe cerebral palsy, and these women are in diapers, cannot speak, cannot move.” “They are raped several times by the same man, because he knows no one is going to do a thing” (Rebick, 2005, pp. 214-215).


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