Rachel’s Story – ‘It’s a regular occurrence and more often than I would like has ended in me issuing a sharp slap to the unwanted pair of hands,’

I am a wheelchair user and honestly could not recount all the times I have been subject to non-consensual touch in one form or another. It usually involves being forcibly pushed without any warning by complete strangers, often who do not respond to a firm ‘no, let go of me’, and become offended when I begin to physically remove their hands from my chair. It’s a regular occurrence and more often than I would like has ended in me issuing a sharp slap to the unwanted pair of hands, this usually shocks them into letting go but I’m wary of the offence being turned on me for responding in that way when they were ‘only trying to help’. Even having got away from such a situation it’s impossible to tell the motivation of the person concerned. Similar applies to taxi drivers – when travelling in black cabs and entering by the ramp they regularly will grab onto me rather than the chair or try to pull me in rather than push which leaves them right in my face. They do not listen when I tell them to stop, it’s been a real issue. This is heightened when the ramp is unsuitably deployed, if it is too steep for my chair or placed at an angle I tell them not to push me up because it’s not safe but they just say ‘it’s ok, I’ll push, trust me’ and try to just force me up and in, despite me knowing it is unsafe for me and my chair. It’s an undignified situation and makes me feel very vulnerable to unwanted and forced touch under the disguise of being ‘helped’. It’s horrible not knowing if someone is genuinely wanting to help or if they are exploiting my vulnerability and that excuse of ‘helping’ to manhandle me. 

As a result of these points I rarely leave the house alone, I’m terrified of everyone around me. It worries me greatly that someone could very easily start pushing me in an attempt to kidnap me and get away with it, it would be so easy for them to pose as my ‘carer’ and the public to ignore my cries for help. It’s a massive worry of mine, alongside the daily safety and dignity compromises by being pushed without warning by complete strangers. 

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Hannah Mason-Bish View All →

Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex

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