Dear Destroy the Joint
Last week, you told us that you apologised for excluding us from your page and from the ongoing conversation about violence against women.
This is what you said;
Let us begin with a belated and unreserved apology about the way we have handled the comment moderation in this instance. We acknowledge we can always be more inclusive. We are constantly discussing ways we can achieve this and no woman living with disability should be excluded from this page. Anyone who has been banned as a result of this will be unbanned. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can be thorough about this.
It has always been our mission to include everyone and Counting Dead Women includes all women who have been killed as a result of gendered violence.
We have left this post here, along with all the feedback so we could gain a better understanding of how the events have unfolded and how the way we have run the page may have contributed to it. We want to do the right thing by all women. For this reason, we will take a short break to reflect on how we can ensure no one feels excluded from this page. Women are diverse. We will continue to honour all women killed because of gendered violence in Australia.
We hear you and we need to time to reassess. You are the reason we exist. You have been very clear about what you think Destroy The Joint has done wrong. Thank you for your feedback. We needed it.
But since then, we haven’t heard a word from you. You’re not returning our calls nor talking about dead disabled women, despite the news that a Senate Inquiry recommended a Royal Commission into violence against people with disability and that the news has been full of items around violence and disability. You’ve broken up with us after a relationship we’ve never had.
Last Wednesday, three of our sisters, Senators Siewert, Moore and Lindgren, wore a dried white rose pinned to their jackets as they tabled the Inquiry report that called for a Royal Commission. The roses were dried after the Bolshy Divas, a disability activist group, lay a white rose on the table at the Senate hearing to mark the death of each name they called. You'd think the calling for a Royal Commission into the abuse and murders of dead disabled women would be enough for you to give us a call - but there hasn't been a word.
We think that a week has been long enough for you to ‘reassess’. We expected that you’d contact some of us – any of us – given the scores of articles that emerged about this issue, including this one by Katie Ellis in the Conversation, or perhaps even include us in a post about abuse and violence. But we are not present in your conversations.
What have you left out? Well, since we spoke to you last, these things have happened.
This is what we’re talking about in the disability community.
On White Ribbon Day, a poignant memorial was held in the heart of Sydney to remember dead disabled women, men and children who had died as a result of violence, abuse and neglect. The names of the dead were called, the names of the uncounted were recognised. This was the same event that you’d refused to acknowledge and you’d asked us to share it in a ‘disability activist space’.
Australia recognised that the abuse of people with disability was so widespread that it urgently needed a Royal Commission to investigate the abuse.
In Toronto, an article was published saying that a disabled couple were ‘allowed’ to keep their child. Jax Jackie Brown was one of the disabled women who talked about the intersectional issues around removal of children and how that intersects with marriage equality, because gendered stereotypes about what it means to be a mother contribute to the likelihood of children being removed from our care.
Senator Rachel Siewert published an opinion piece in the Guardian saying that disability abuse was a national shame.
Two women, Keran Howe and Julie Phillips, a disabled woman and a parent of a child with a disability, were awarded national awards for their advocacy work around violence prevention and awareness raising around students with disabilities.
Yesterday, as Kelly Cox and I were about to board a train in Sydney, a woman with a mental health condition was being beaten in a public space. She was dark skinned, and the passersby streamed past them both, like a river round a rock, even when she screamed for help. She had a black eye that her assailant had given her a few days earlier and we discovered that the man hitting her was less frightening to her than police, than being sectioned, than going to hospital. As the paramedic arrived, her eyes widened with fear. She was scared about files being created about her, in case she wanted to have more children, she said. When I asked if she had children, her eyes filled with tears.
He was her friend, she said. He was keeping her safe from other people, worse people, from prostitution, from rape, she said. Women like this woman are not often represented in conversations about domestic and family violence – she had a brain injury, her assailant told me, and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. She lived a violent life and has no pathways to safety.
Her story was like a period to this week’s acts of exclusion. We are excluded because we are the wrong people – we are excluded from feminist spaces because we are disabled, trans women, women of colour, indigenous women, sex workers, intersex, queer or other. We women do not ask to be included by your group and other groups that represent feminist spaces – we demand it.
We’re not hard to find, nor to engage with. Now that you’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the ways disability politics are essential to feminist politics, we’re expecting a call.
Sam Connor - email@example.com
Image description - a paper heart is stitched together after being torn. A needle and thread lies nearby.