She sits there, dumbfounded. Was she really just raped? By her boyfriend no less, in their bedroom, five feet from where her flatmates were watching television? Was it rape? Sure, they were playing games, but when it hurt and she said no and he put his hand over her mouth and the knife to her throat and kept going – well, it sure felt like rape to her.
In those moments, she was an object, a thing to be played with. As she sits there, it’s not the event itself that she struggles with, but how she feels. The event was just sex – something she had done before and will do again. The emotions are what eats at her. The feeling of worthlessness as a human being not entitled to a say in what happens to her body. The feeling of fear that it will happen again. The feeling of being trapped as she has to continue living with him due to poverty. The emotions crash into her and over her until she doesn’t know anymore which way is up. She curls up and wills the world to disappear.
Over a decade later, the date rape long behind her, she confronts another type of rape. A rape perpetuated by her own government and the society in which she lives. Once again, she finds herself curled up in a corner, willing the world to just disappear. Once again, she finds emotions crashing into and over her until she doesn’t know which way is up. Once again she feels trapped and fearful and worthless.
She has no say in her body. She is on the waiting list to see a neurologist to find out if she has Multiple Sclerosis, with no end in sight to that waiting list. She has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which affects the entire body, and she can’t afford the therapy she needs or the medical care she needs in order to stay as healthy as she could be.
She has no say in her life. She is eligible for support worker hours, however there is “no funding”. So she stays at home most of the time. Her pension barely covers her accommodation, bills and food, so for anything else, she has to beg for funding. She has to beg for things that other people take for granted. A trip to the shops (begs for support worker hours). A bathroom she can use (she begs for modifications). Mobility (she begs for a wheelchair). A glass of water when she needs one (she begs for home help hours). Her life is up to the will of others.
She lives in fear. Fear each budget night when she watches the news dreading more cutbacks to essential services and support. Fear that the next time she begs the answer will be no again. Fear that she will end up homeless. Fear that the next payday she will have to choose between food and electricity to keep her house warm so she doesn’t end up in hospital in agonising pain. Fear that the rest of her life will be spent inside her house, and eventually, an old age home. Fear that she will never again “do” anything – not because she physically can’t, because with equipment and support she could, but because that equipment and support is not available to her.
She feels trapped, because she is trapped. She is trapped inside her mind. Inside her house. Inside a broke, and broken, system. She is trapped by circumstance completely outside of her control. Even having done everything “right”, eventually all the plans for “just in case” withered away until there was nothing left but the final back up plan the government is supposed to provide. She used to pay her taxes and she was happy to, just for this very reason. It seemed like the ultimate insurance plan. Except the insurance company isn’t paying up.
After her rape, she visited the local domestic violence organisation, where they didn’t believe her. Or if they did, they did nothing to help her. They listened to her, and sent her home. Back to him. No options for escape were mentioned. No plans were made to ensure her safety.
Now, when she visits disability services, they don’t understand her needs. Or if they do, they do nothing to help her. They listen to her, and send her home. No options are presented. No plans are made.
She listens to rape organisations speak about victimhood being a mindset. That it is a choice to be emotionally affected by rape. She is blamed for being emotionally weak. She blames herself for “allowing” it to happen. For being in the position that it could happen.
She listens to disability organisations speak about focusing on ability and how people with a disability can live full lives just the same as anyone else. She is told that it is a choice to allow her disability to rule her life. She is essentially personally blamed for not having the equipment and support that she requires in order to achieve this “full life”. When she speaks up about not having the equipment and support she needs, she is chastised for being “negative” or “impatient”, and sometimes even “greedy”. Other people with a disability tell her “I could choose to stay at home and feel sorry for myself, but I don’t”. Even other people with a disability do not understand the struggle she goes through each and every day. They blame her for her circumstances. She blames herself for “not trying hard enough” and “allowing” it to happen, even as she knocks on every door, and begs every person she meets, even offering to work for free in order to have some purpose in life (and being rejected).
She is nothing more than an object once again. She loses part of her humanity each time the government cuts funds and tells her she isn’t worth it. Each time an organisation gives her the run-around or blames her for something completely outside of her control. Each time she is told she should work, when she can’t, or she should go out more, when she can’t. Each time she tried to find her place in the world and finds that there is no place for her.
Some people with a disability will find this offensive, because they are the ones for whom having a disability does not equate to losing your soul, because they can access what they need in order to continue their life. They want the world to know that they can do anything, and good on them for that. And perhaps it isn’t politically correct to compare rape and having a disability. I am not trying to do that however – I am comparing the aftermath.
And the aftermath of being raped and having a disability in this society with this government sure as fuck feels the same to me. And I just want to curl up and die.