It is so frustrating.
Destroy the Joint are counting dead women, mostly women who are killed by men.
Destroy the Narrative are counting dead men, only those who have been killed by women.
For both those groups, they are counting the people who have been killed ‘this year’.
But for many people with disability, nobody is counting. Nobody knows when we are dead. The story of an Autistic boy who was killed by his mother and stepfather – he was bound to a chair, doused with cold water and put in a garden shed, where he died of hypothermia – only went to court this month, in 2015. He had died in 2011. Rebecca Lazarus, a woman murdered by her partner outside her group home in 2007, also went unnoticed, uncounted for over five years. On the 14 November 2012, 1960 days after Lazarus was brutally murdered, the Coroners Court of Victoria released its report, a “Finding Without Inquest”. Until then, nobody knew – and perhaps that was because nobody cared.
Our deaths ‘must be for some other reason, it is not like other violence’. Last week, an Australian feminist organisation suggested that the details of a memorial to commemorate the lives of dead disabled women, men and children should be placed on ‘a disability activist page’.
We will never make change until our deaths are counted, until we are regarded as victims of violence in the same way others are regarded. That includes equal coverage and treatment by advocates of non violence, access to justice and access to services and supports.
In 1955, Rosa Parks created change for the black community by protesting exclusion and segregation on city buses. She refused to give up her seat to a white person when told to move to the designated ‘coloured section’.
‘People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.’ – Rosa Parks
We people with disability are not at the back of the bus. We are not even on the fucking bus.
The argument for addressing the pay gap is almost irrelevant for the thousands of disabled women and men who cannot get into employment because of employer attitudes. We do not fit into ‘mainstream places’ – we are more likely to be incarcerated than admitted to a hospital, and Australia ranks 29 of 29 OECD countries for poverty risk of people with a disability. 90% of women with intellectual disability report being sexually abused in their lifetime, and instead of this being a national emergency, we are excluded and segregated from supports, services, policy documents and frameworks and the wider conversation.
Tomorrow is White Ribbon Day, but it is also the day that we will hold the White Flower Memorial. We will join together in the reading of the names of those dead women, men and children with disability to express our solidarity for those lost to violence, anger at the perpetrators and determination to fight together against oppression, violence and the social conditions and power imbalances that have caused our deaths.
We also call upon decision makers to listen to the stories told to the Senate and the report about violence against people with disability which will be tabled tomorrow in Parliament.
We call upon all people who care about nonviolence and justice to bring about changes that will relegate acts of violence against people with disability to the past.
We call upon every person in Australia, including our disabled brothers and sisters, to speak up, tell our stories, and let the world know that violence against people with disability is unacceptable.
Let us start counting the uncounted and listen to their stories. And let us build a ramp to make that bus accessible, so that we can ride with other women, men and children, be granted equal rights and assert our place in the world.
Image descriptions: A black woman sits on a bus, her face turned slightly away. She is sitting at the front of the bus. Behind her sits a white man. Image 2: Two protesters sit in their wheelchairs in front of a bus holding protest signs.