by: Lea Gnoy
To raise awareness of violence against LGBTQ+ individuals with disabilities, the SAFE Alliance interviewed victims in order to get their stories and provide them with support and protection. The SAFE Alliance is a human service agency based in Austin, Texas that supplies help for survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic abuse. It is researched that both LGBTQ+ individuals and people with disabilities are at a high risk of experiencing violence, so those with the intersectional identities of being an LGBTQ+ individual with a disability are at an even higher risk.
The SAFE team interviewed Lauren Gerken, a lesbian with cerebral palsy who has survived abuse, to shine light on the barriers and violence she has experienced. Gerken says how people “who identify as LGBTQIA+ and also have a disability are often left out of conversations about abuse, despite their greatest risk for violence and discrimination”, making it extremely important to bring more awareness to this situation. Other than the lack of inclusivity in discussions, Gerken says that one of the biggest barriers in receiving help for abuse are the multiple misconceptions that prevent LGBTQ+ abuse survivors with disabilities from speaking out. If a person with a disability comes out as abused, “society tends to question if that person even understands abuse to begin with”. For her LGBTQ+ identity, people tend to blame the fact that she is gay on abuse; a common misconception “is that abuse makes someone gay” and that assumption can be very damaging to one’s sense of identity. Another point that Gerken brings up is how abuse is never the victim’s fault.
Since LGBTQ+ individuals who have disabilities sometimes need help with everyday tasks like getting undressed, some horrible people would see that as an excuse to impose on the individual. Being at a vulnerable state is never a sexual invitation, and unfortunately LGBTQ+ individuals with disabilities are taken advantage of during extremely vulnerable situations. It is important to hear survivors like Lauren Gerken speak out about their experiences and how they are treated to spread awareness throughout society.
Safe interview: LGBTQIA+ people with disabilities. The SAFE Alliance. (2019, August 12). Retrieved December 16, 2022, from https://www.safeaustin.org/safe-interview-lgbtqia-people-with-disabilities/