Thursday, May 29, 2014

#yesallwomen Includes Women with Disabilities.

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape culture have been getting a lot of attention lately, especially with the #yesallwomen hashtag that has gained some serious momentum. I’m glad that this is on society’s radar right now, because as an advocate for ending domestic violence and rape culture, this is something that is on my mind every day.

Also, as a woman this is something that is on my mind every day. Every day I take steps to protect myself from sexual assault that most men never even think of. Every day I deal with statements and actions that perpetuate rape culture.

So yes, as a woman and an advocate I am glad. 

But as a woman with a disability and an advocate for ending domestic violence against women with disabilities, I am disappointed.  

I’m disappointed because these conversations about ending the violence, stopping the assaults, empowering women, and all that jazz never include women with disabilities.

This is a huge problem.


Well, for many reasons, but here’s just a few:

  • Women with disabilities are at least twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence and sexual assault than women without disabilities. 
  • Women with disabilities experience abuse that lasts longer and is more intense than women without disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities are less likely to report domestic violence or sexual assault. Approximately 70% - 85% of abuse against people with disabilities goes unreported.
  •  Studies estimate that 80% of women with disabilities have been sexually assaulted.
  • One study showed that 47% of sexually abused women with disabilities reported assaults on more than ten occasions.
  • Another study found that only 5% of reported crimes against people with disabilities were prosecuted, compared to 70% for serious crimes committed against people with no disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities are often perceived to be weak, unwanted or asexual, making us  more vulnerable to sexual violence.
  • Some attackers have stated that they considered it a “favor” to rape and/or sexually assault women and girls with disabilities because they thought no one else would have sex with us, that we could not have sex otherwise, or they didn’t even view us as human beings.
  • Abuse has a more severe negative effect on the self-esteem of women with physical disabilities than those without disabilities. 
  • Many women with disabilities have fewer economic resources, thereby increasing the risk of abuse. 
  • Women with disabilities face limited options for escaping abusive situations and accessing battered women's programs.
  • Women with disabilities are women too. Our voices, our thoughts, our bodies, and our lives matter.

I could keep continuing to list facts for you, but I’d be here all night. No, I’d be here for years. The point is that women with disabilities are women. We are human. We are sexual beings. And we are experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault and we’re experiencing it at much higher rates than any other population. 

But nobody is talking about us. Nobody is talking with us.

Problems don’t get fixed if nobody knows the problem exists. By not taking a stand against the violence that women with disabilities face, we are essentially ignoring it.

No, we’re doing more than ignoring it. We are endorsing it. 

When women without disabilities don’t step up to talk about and try to stop the abuse that women with disabilities face, they are endorsing that abuse. Just like when men don’t step up to talk about and try to stop rape culture, they are endorsing rape culture.

Just like rape and domestic violence isn’t a women’s problem, rape and domestic violence against women with disabilities isn’t just a problem for women with disabilities. These are both societal problems. Society needs to fix them. Men and women -  with and without disabilities – need to work together on these issues.

So let’s start talking about domestic violence and sexual assault against women with disabilities because #yesallwomen includes women with disabilities.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My Awkward Introduction

Hey There! I am pretty awkward when it comes to introductions. Actually, I'm pretty awkward in general. So let's just right jump right in, shall we?

I'm Stephanie Woodward - your awkward, yet sassy Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2014.

I was crowned as Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2014 in the beginning of April after spending a weekend competing with some fantastic ladies from across Florida. Each an every one of those ladies were more poised & classy than I am,  but I guess the judges this year wanted to take an alternative route, so they chose the girl with an inappropriate sense of humor and the mouth of a trucker.

I am honored they chose me and hope to do Florida proud.

So to start off this blog, I want to tell you a little about me, a little about Ms. Wheelchair Florida, Inc., and a little about what this blog is going to be all about! So here it goes...

A Little About Me

I am a Disability Rights activist at heart. I will do just about anything to help enforce, expand, and educate about the rights of people with disabilities - this includes protesting, being arrested (only twice so far!), posing naked for a disability rights campaign, giving presentations, attempting to convert every guy I date into a disability rights advocate, and explaining to kids in grocery stores why I use a wheelchair and why there's nothing wrong with using a wheelchair. Oh yeah, and I'm also a Disability Rights lawyer. 

Beyond my commitment to Disability Rights, I am also interested in cheeseburgers, bright colors, every animal that crosses my path (particularly if I'm allowed to touch them!), all other civil rights, panda youtube videos, and brownies. 

A Little About Ms. Wheelchair Florida, Inc. 

Ms. Wheelchair Florida, Inc. serves as a platform for women in all 67 counties in Florida while advocating for the 54 million Americans who are living with disabilities. MW FL Inc. strives strive to bring awareness to all people with disabilities and the importance of them being included in the communities in which they live and that they are able to have a choice when it comes to employment, education, and housing.

A Little About This Blog

In this blog I plan to write about general disability issues to educate people about disabled people, the disability community, disability rights, and more. I will also blog specifically about ending domestic violence against women with disabilities because that is my platform issue as Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2014. If you've never heard of anything that I write about in this blog that's great because I'm happy to help you learn! If you already know everything that I write about in this blog then great because you're already informed about these important topics! Either way, I hope you'll read and share it with others! 

I will try to make sure that this blog is accessible to all, but if you find any inaccessibility or have suggestions, please don't be afraid to let me know! 

And if you have suggestions for topics you'd like me to address, I'd be happy to hear them! 

That's all for now!