The Man of the House

We are nowhere.”

He’s right. John Boehner was talking about the fiscal cliff, but he could very well have been speaking in general. Because Congress is nowhere.

Nowhere on Violence Against Women in Indian Country.

Nowhere on disability rights.

Nowhere on leadership that looks like you and me.

But “nowhere?” Really?

With so much at stake, that’s the best we can do?

Native American women cannot wait for Congress to get somewhere.

“Eighty-eight percent of the abuse against Native women is committed by non-Native men—but we, as citizens of the United States, permit this abuse to go unchecked because we do not allow police officers, prosecutors and judges on tribal lands to perform their legal obligations regarding these non-Native men. In other words we, citizens of the United States, have sanctioned ‘open season against Native American women by non-Native men.’ This is simply unconscionable. Each of us has an opportunity, now, to right this wrong.”

People with disabilities and their advocates cannot wait for Congress to get somewhere. Yet we are forced to endure the mind-numbing word catastrophe that are press releases from senate leadership as they try to explain why they did NOT ratify the UN Disability Treaty. ‘Blah blah blah – the American family – blah blah blah – sovereignty – blah – cliff – blah – going over – blah – be very afraid.’ For the love of God – say something. At least ‘I have no experience of or interest in human suffering’ would be honest.

republican-men

And finally. WHY are we nowhere on the leadership in the House?

Did Congress not learn anything from their insanity, inanity, and insulting ignorance about contraception and rape. IT PISSED US OFF! Representative Boehner – you can’t even find one measly woman to put into leadership??!?   Not even one man of color? Are you quite certain?

I don’t know about you, but I need OUT of nowhere. And  I’m on fire about it.

I’m looking for young women interested in running for public office. Women who want to act to solve problems.

And I’m making it a daily habit to coach, cajole and yes shame if necessary as many of my elected officials as I can. My message? “I need you to reach across whatever aisle you are sitting near to get some serious work done. To do otherwise is unethical and unforgivable.”

They need to hear from each and every one of us. Daily as necessary until they dig themselves out of nowhere. If we don’t have leaders who can do that, it’s just a damned shame. All the way around.

Do you know about the Ashley Treatment?

Was your first thought a beauty treatment? Did a celebrity cross your mind—say Ashley Judd? Maybe some Ashley Judd outrage is a good idea, but it’s not what I’m talking about today. The Ashley Treatment actually consists of these steps: 1. Being given hormones at age six to stunt your growth so you will stay permanently small and easy to care for; 2. Have your breast buds and uterus removed so you can’t get pregnant or be sexually abused (How does this prevent sexual abuse??); 3. Have no say in this because you can’t give permission or even be asked if this is okay with you.

This is what happened to Ashley X and possibly 100 other children (so far). How can this happen? Because we view people with disabilities as less than human. People with disabilities rarely sit on ethics committees of hospitals. They rarely get to give input on whether to withhold, deny, or impose treatment on children and adults with disabilities. The hospital that performed the procedures on Ashley later admitted that her civil rights had been violated and agreed to make changes, including adding a person with a disability to their ethics committee and requiring a court order prior to doing this type of treatment.


What people with disabilities think about the Ashley Treatment

Disability Rights Washington and The National Disability Rights Network just released a report that uses the Ashley X decision as a case study. It asks how we can make medical decisions that “uphold the constitutional rights and inherent dignity of people with disabilities.” Everyone has the right to choose what will happen to their body—including people with disabilities, battered women, young women and men who want access to birth control. We have to believe that people are experts of their own lives and have the right to make their own decisions―even those who can’t speak for themselves.

What would our community look like if we all had the curiosity and willingness to listen to what has worked for people who’ve had experiences we haven’t had? How would things be different if people with disabilities had a leadership voice in our hospitals, schools, and communities?

Will you be abused?

I just came back from the Abuse of Elders and Adults with Disabilities Conference. Did you know the first federal law focused on preventing elder abuse passed just last year? Surprised this didn’t already exist? I was.

As our guest blogger, Phil Jordan, pointed out, our focus on violence by an “intimate partner” generally leaves out elders and people with disabilities being abused by a family member or caregiver. But these trusted relationships
are certainly intimate in their own way: someone has access to your body, your home, your money. And with that comes control and the possibility of abuse.

Folks 80+ are the fastest growing segment of our total population. Ask anyone who has reached that “certain age” and they will tell you about an experience of feeling invisible and less credible. We’re all headed there. Whether you will be able to live in your own home, a facility, or become homeless, we are all going to keep aging. And this makes us vulnerable to be trapped in an abusive relationship.

You might manage to have great relationships through your whole life. But when you get older, you’ll be entering into different kinds of intimate relationships and you may have a lot less choice about who those people are. If they start controlling you, where will you turn?

Make a wish

We are pleased to bring you this post from guest blogger Phil Jordan, Elder Abuse Project Coordinator at the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

Last year, my friend Rob, local actor extraordinaire, played the part of Lightning Lad, sidekick to superhero Electron Boy. It was part of a heartwarming story orchestrated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant Erik Martin, a terminally ill 13-year-old, his heart’s desire.

I have to credit Erik and Rob with helping me understand my mixed feelings about the Make-A-Wish phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the kids’ eyes light up when their wish comes true and I honor the people who donate their time and effort to make it happen.

But I also feel a little bit grumpy about the whole thing. For the past 12 years, I have worked to connect domestic violence and sexual assault  advocates to people with disabilities and elders. So many people in this population are abused and no amount of wishing puts a stop to it. The advocates want to be helpful, but they sometimes resist altering how they work, and that can make it impossible for the people I work with to use their services.

For example, advocates often rely on the term “intimate partner violence.” Many elders and people with disabilities are abused by other family members or caregivers. The relationship may be “intimate,” but not in the way the advocates mean.

Also, people with dementia, mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or brain injuries need advocates to find new ways to help them explore options, plan for safety, and overcome the abuser’s power and control.

My wish is that elders and people with disabilities no longer experience abuse. But there is no organization that has the wherewithal to grant my wish, and I remain grumpy about that.

But I know that domestic violence and sexual assault programs are the best place to find services aimed directly at eliminating the power and control that abusers exert. That is true for women battered by their intimate partner, and it is true for elders and people with disabilities abused by people they trust. I am grateful for the advocates’ work and wish that all people being abused could benefit from it. And maybe they can grant me my other wish―to be less grumpy.