Rape A Disabling Crime – By Halley

From: Women and Disability – An Issue. A Collection of writings by women with disabilities. This booklet was produced by the Melbourne based Women with Disabilities Feminist Collective in the late 1980’s. The exact publishing date is unknown. Copyright.


Rape is a violent, physical and mental attack. Women are often in a state of shock, rage and/ or disbelief after being raped and it is important to seek help as soon as possible; to talk to someone you know will believe you as soon as possible. I think a disability accentuates our feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. Most women fear going to the police in case they will not be believed. This is a very real fear and having a disability may lessen your credibility with police as it does with the rest of society.

Being women with disabilities our experiences with welfare agencies and hospitals are an added deterrent against going to a hospital based sexual assault clinic. The clinics are often not accessible, physically or by special phones for hearing impaired people.

We can’t move away from our fear because it lives in our head. Our detractors must continue the degradation of the victim to maintain the status quo, because to acknowledge the rape means acknowledging their own vulnerability. Any character or credibility we may have had has to be destroyed. In a court case it is the woman whose character is dragged through the mud for public scrutiny; her sexual history, her work and life are held up for criticism whilst the man undergoes minimal questioning. She is on trial.

Until we, as women, can change our attitudes to ourselves, refuse to bear total guilt, and reject our feelings of shame, and give and receive support from other women; and until men stop using women’s bodies against which to vent their anger, rape will continue to be more disabling than the restrictions placed upon us by institutions. Rape is the most powerful political tool with which men control women.

Myths About Rape:

Myth: Only strange psychotic men commit rape…….therefore don’t go out at night, lock all your doors and windows so he can’t get in.

Fact: Most women are raped by men they know, in their own homes. You are in less danger on the streets. Unfortunately stranger rape is the one the media most publicises.

Myth: You are too ugly to be raped.

Fact: Growing up and living with a disability we are usually made painfully aware of the revulsion many people feel toward our distorted bodies. So we are told we need never worry about being raped – this is a lie. Many women with disabilities are raped.

Myth: You are lucky some guy found you attractive enough to fuck.

Fact: Any sex which is not desired and is not with someone you choose is rape. You are not lucky. No one ever deserves to be raped.

Our disabilities do isolate us both socially and physically. Rape reinforces our feelings of isolation, fear, degradation and shame. There is little support for any woman raped; the situation can be worse if you have a disability. You are taught not to complain, not to expect too much, to hide, because you are disabled. Furthermore we are often denied any expression of our sexuality. The media rarely portrays a woman with cerebral palsy in any sexual relationship.

Institutions rarely if ever allow for information about sex, let alone expression of our sexual desires, even though sexual harassment and rape often go unchecked in these places. Rape by male staff of women is not uncommon and many female patients in institutions are given contraceptives without being: informed so as to avoid pregnancy if they do happen to be raped. Other women are not either physically or intellectually capable of making a complaint.

It is a crime that, due to lack of emotional support, some women are placed in institutions. This is a direct result of the hypocritical attitude our society holds towards women who speak out. On the one hand we are told we should not be secretive, but should report the rape to police and seek help. But on the other hand when we do speak up we are treated as the perpetrators of a hideous crime.

The accusations often go as follows:

How dare you accuse this poor man.

It was your fault for dressing the way you do, you asked for it.

It was your fault for acting the way you did – you asked for it.

He’s a married man with kids – you are just frustrated and vindictive.

He’s your doctor, your priest, your ex-lover – no reason not to trust him, you must be lying.

He’s worked here for twenty years – no one has ever complained before.

These are common social attitudes to women who have been raped, so many choose to feel quietly distraught in the face of the vengeance turned upon us. For those of us who do speak up, take the bastard to court, or publicly denounce him with whatever means available to us we can be assured of no further job opportunities, our anger and pain being turned against us.