I’ve lost count of the number of times strangers have just begun pushing my wheelchair without asking or even saying hello first. Once was on a busy hiking trail in the middle of the afternoon–a place where women never run alone because so many violent things have happened. I thought I was being attacked, and he told me “not to get hysterical he was only trying to help”. A ramp agent at my home airport refused to acknowledge that I had declined his assistance, saying no each time I asked him to stop pushing me. He pushed me so quickly that he hit the edge of the ramp and dumped me out of my chair. He groped both of my breasts and then walked away. When I complained to the airline they said he knew I was struggling and was only trying to help. A man once approached me at night while I was getting into my car, asking if I needed help. I said no oh, but he wouldn’t leave. He stood immediately behind me, watching me, until I shut my car door. As I was driving away I could still see him staring in the rearview mirror. there have been countless other times where people have “helped me” without my consent where nothing bad has happened other than my frustration but being ignored. I am glad that someone is finally treating these invasions of our space and lack of bodily autonomy as what they are. Experiences that lead to violence or at least induce fear. Im glad someone is starting to see the connection between incidents like those above and the massively high rates of violence against people with disabilities.
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex