"He had felt the vein, the physical and psychological fragility"

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"He attacked me by mimicking a crisis of depersonalization, and threatening me with a Japanese sword. And he did not have to use a lot of physical strength with me: it was impossible to move. "says Lisa *, 33, with hemiparesis (half of her body no longer responds to cerebral orders). That day, a friend met at the hospital a few weeks earlier, rapes her, she says, after having invited her so-called "a friend". "He had felt the vein, the physical and psychological fragility", recalls the one who at that time had been hospitalized for unbearable pain due to her disability. "I have experienced several sexual assaults, and all have been at least helped by my physical condition. Predators are more easily attracted to this state … ", She says.

Women with disabilities are 1.5 to 10 times more likely to be victims of gender-based violence because of their dependency, according to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch. Listen to Lisa, we understand. And yet, this reality is unknown. Because women with disabilities are perceived as asexual victims of "unthought" as summarized by researcher and performer No Anger. And because the idea that women who are already struck by disability can be targeted is simply unbearable: "One can not conceive that a woman already beaten in her flesh is in addition victim of violence, it is very difficult to understand", commented Isabelle Dumont, project manager at the Women for Action association, Femmes pour agir (FDFA), who wants to "Fight the double discrimination of being a woman and a disabled person".

"Sexual violence against women with disabilities is a taboo, as it has been for a long time for minors, because it reflects what the human being may have more abject. But it's a reality », said last May LREM MP Hauts-de-Seine Adrien Taquet in a text for the daily La Croix. He tells Slate.fr that he will table a bill on the subject in the first quarter of 2019, the content of which remains to be determined, but which will undoubtedly resume certain proposals of the report "Simpler life", that he co-wrote with Jean-François Serres, member of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council.

Easier prey for predators

Specific figures are lacking to assess the reality of sexual violence suffered by women with physical or mental disabilities. But studies on the subject all show much higher rates than for women without disabilities. A survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2014 revealed that among women over the age of 15 who say they are "disabled", declaring "a health problem" or "a daily limitation of their activities 34% had been physically or sexually abused by a partner, compared to 19% of women who did not report these problems. A report from the European Union, based on a conference by activist Lydia Zijdel River, who herself mentions without citing studies in several countries, indicates that nearly 80% of women with disabilities are victims of psychological and physical violence, compared to 36% of valid women.

The first explanation for these staggering numbers is simply that women with disabilities are easier prey for predators. Their vulnerabilities expose them all the more. In the case of Tariq Ramadan, accused of rape by two different women, one of the plaintiffs – do we know – had at the time of the facts crutches, after a car accident. She explained that the Islamologist had given her "A blow in his crutch" to make it fall.

"He did not blame me for who I am but for the fragility of my body"

Valérie, 42 years old

Isabelle Dumont recalls a woman who had diabetes and whose companion had stashed insulin, leading to a diabetic coma. Or another in a chair, which her husband had locked up at her house, carrying the key. Examples of this kind are numerous.

"He did not blame me for who I am but for the fragility of my body", summarizes abruptly Valérie, 42, Belgian, suffering from compression of the spinal cord (syndrome of the ponytail), and who had to circulate for several years in a wheelchair. "He" is an urologist, who has repeatedly used his weakness to use it as a sexual object, during exams where it was necessary to fill his bladder with saline fluid. He asked her to urinate on the table, under the pretext of checking the functionality of his body, and gave him electric shocks on the clitoris, hoping to cause an orgasm. Suffering, Valerie does not understand immediately what happens to him, even if a certain discomfort settles when the practitioner begins to tighten the bathrobe which surrounds his pajamas: "He was facing me, and wanted me to start again. He was asking me to let go against him ". It is a sentence of the chief physician that makes him aware of the whole reality: "I do not have results, I do not cover that", would have dropped the practitioner discovering the empty file after several sessions yet, the urologist does not record their appointments.

With hindsight, Valérie analyzes her late reaction: "From the beginning of the disease, we have relationships with our body that are not happy. We are used to having pipes in all the holes. There is the body, and next to our head or our heart. The body hurts anyway, so we separate the other pains »she explains calmly, with a soft voice, measuring each of her words.

"Women with a physical disability live with a suffering body, manipulated for care, stripped of any notion of modesty. The concept of borders is more vague and the threshold of resistance to pain is much more advanced for them. We sometimes have to say "no this is not normal", completes Isabelle Dumont.

"I would not have been so vulnerable if I had not been autistic"

This vagueness, this confusion, also exists in women suffering from behavioral disorders or a mental disability, and facilitates aggression. "The lack of understanding of the situation during a sexual assault and / or their inability to say no can be seen as a sign of consent to sexual intercourse"Several years ago, Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, discussed Lakshmi Puri at a panel discussion on preventing and ending violence against women with disabilities.

Autism, for example, alters sensory perceptions, useful to become aware of danger, or to make people understand their feelings. For example, children with "Autism Spectrum Disorder" (ASD) are almost three times more likely to be sexually abused than other children.

That's what happened to Martine * when she was 12 years old. One day, she focuses on her neighbor's posters, which she looks at from a distance. A typical attitude of autism according to her. "I was fixing on the wheels", she says. The neighbor then throws at him: "Do you want to see the posters closely?"and here she goes to his house without being suspicious. The rest is very hard to hear, but important to understand what is playing.

"He started shutting shutters. I said, "I can not see the lighthouses of the trucks". He answers me: "You will see they will be enlightened". He locked the door, put the key in his pocket. He gave me the little lamp so I could look at the details of the trucks. It happened what happened. I was assaulted, he pissed in my eyes, he penetrated me with his sex in more than one object. I was left for dead, I was bathed in my blood. He left, he told me: "I'll come back to take care of your anus". He came back and kicked me, saying "Wake up". On the floor, there was a sheet. He put me in the sheet, put me to a cherry tree, behind the house. I managed to crawl and threw myself into the brambles, I do not know if it was to wake me up. I did not want to see what had happened. I arrived in the house, completely anesthetized by this unbearable pain. I was dead and yet my legs carried me to the house. When I arrived, being regularly scratched by my falls and my boundless energy, my mother did not pay attention to this blood and my clothes being unrecognizable. She said to me "Where you dragged, go quickly wash yourself". My difficulty of expression did not facilitate verbalization. Nobody was attentive to body language. When we are raped, if we are not listened quickly, we never speak again. Later I made drawings, and when my mother saw the drawings turn, she told me that I was crazy to draw that. And from that moment I never spoke again. "

"My difficulty of expression did not facilitate verbalization. No one was paying attention to body language. "

Martine, 43 years old

Martine is convinced of one thing: "I would not have been so vulnerable if I had not been autistic. Failure to understand people's intent, people's bad intentions, put me in a vulnerable position, compared to a potential abuser. Being captured by the details too. I would never have gone up there otherwise. Autism makes you do not understand people's innuendo, and you do not know what the person really wants. And we will smile, suddenly the person believes that we agree with his intentions, except that it is not that at all. There is a gap between what the person perceives and what we want. A huge gap that puts us in a position of extreme vulnerability facing an individual.

Miserabilistic or fantasized vision

In fact, not only are women with disabilities more vulnerable, but they are also seen as such by their abusers, who see them as easier prey, women of "lesser value" than others, who will not complain. .

Valerie remembers a client, during her studies, when she was a waitress in a restaurant, who never dared to approach her. "A few years later, I went back to the restaurant, this time in a wheelchair. He went to my house one evening and said, "Before I would not have dared, but now you seem more accessible."

Men also started to touch her, saying she had "Less sensitivity" in certain places. It was the case of a singer, came to propose to him to organize a support concert, whereas Valérie lacked money for its successive surgical operations. "He sat down next to me, saying," I do not think you feel your breasts, can I caress them? "And he already had his hand on me."

"What they like is inert bodies, we are meat"


About another man, sent by a social center to help her move her furniture, she thinks he "Would not have addressed it" if she had been standing because that man was "Depressed and shy". "There is a miserabilistic view of women with disabilities that makes perpetrators feel more empowered", analyzes Isabelle Dumont.

On the contrary-or in an apparent contradiction-a part of men fantasize about these bodies of disabled women, but to better temper them. When Valerie one day a photo of her on her wheelchair, radiant, on Facebook, it's a cloud of messages, to ask him to "Masturbate in his chair", or other such requests: "There was not a day when a fetishist did not contact me". She analyzes, lucid: "What they like is inert bodies, we are meat."

Domestic violence

The close entourage, the family or the spouses, do not always support them. According to Isabelle Dumont, the calls made to the number Listening Violence Women with Disabilities make it possible to affirm that the sexual violence takes place mainly in the victim's home and that the perpetrators of violence "Belong to the intrafamilial circle with first spouse or ex-spouse". It is, from this point of view, a situation identical to that of women in general, since three-quarters of the victims of rape and attempted rape were assaulted by a member of their family, a family member, a spouse or an ex-partner. spouse, according to the Virage survey.

But while the offender's profile is often the same, the proportion of women with disabilities who are abused by their spouse is much higher than the general female population. According to a study of the ONDRP of March 2016, carried out from the survey "Living environment and security" Insee-ONDRP from 2008 to 2014, women aged 18 to 75 with disabilities "Some embarrassment or difficulties in everyday life" In a cohabiting couple, the rate of physical or sexual violence over two years per cohabiting partner is 39.1 per thousand (thirty-nine per thousand), which is significantly higher than that of other cohabiting couples (17.8 per 1,000). (The figure may seem low, but it is because it only takes into account the violence suffered in the last two years). France in this area does not seem to be doing better than other countries: globally, women and girls with disabilities are victims of domestic violence at a rate twice as high as other women, according to the UN.

"One day I was raped, in order for me to be pregnant"

Emma, ​​37 years old

It is sometimes the fatigue, the feeling of having a "weight" to wear, or the fear of seeing the body of the other being degraded, which leads to the unacceptable. This is what 37-year-old Emma * tells us about Pompe disease, a genetic disease that affects the cells of the muscles. When the disease is discovered ten years ago, she is married. But her husband suffers enormously, he does not support the idea that the body of his wife can be transformed. Instead of helping him, he throws hard words at him: "In the eyes of my husband, I was going to die, and he asked me if I did not want to finish right now", she says. This man who had always wanted to be a father, she says, paradoxically asks him to make a child "Before leaving". But Emma is too weak, too sick, she refuses this insane request. And also begins because of fatigue and suffering to flee sexual intercourse. It is at this point that psychological abuse is transformed into physical violence. "One day I was raped, in order for me to be pregnant"she lets go. She leaves the marital home.

Guilt and dependence

Other women accept sex they do not want, trapped in guilt for a spouse who sometimes helps them on a daily basis. "We think he did it for us, so we can do that for him, and that way he'll leave us alone", tells Martine *, who sometimes has the feeling of being "Liable". It is the "addiction syndrome", which Lakshmi Puri, of UN Women, describes as the "Reluctance to denounce gender-based violence for fear of losing their caregivers or becoming more vulnerable to them".

This vulnerability is expressed with the spouse, but also with any sexual partner or anyone who is sexually attracted to them. It can be tempting for these men to take advantage of the state of dependence of these women, by carrying out blackmail. This is what Valérie experienced. She remembers a day when she went on a wheelchair to a festival with the one she thought was a "friend".

"At the end of the concert he said to me, 'We take a hotel room or leave you here,' and it was not because he had been drinking. I told him to leave me here, although the festival was 200 km from my home. I was a little tipsy at the time, so I found the strength to go to help strangers. Alas, it often happens that people say to me "It does not please you, so I leave you there". They know we will be limited at one time or another. "

"I would not stay with him if I was not addicted. But I can not live without him financially. "


To this dependence that one could describe as "physical", is often added an economic dependency. You should know that half of people with disabilities have a standard of living less than 1. 540 euros per month, nearly 200 euros less than a valid person. In the European Union, the employment rate of women with disabilities is 2% compared to 36% for men with disabilities and 55% for women without disabilities. Those who can not work receive the allowance for adults with disabilities (AAH), which "peaks" at 860 euros (900 next year) per month. Difficult to live with this sum. Especially since women who are in couples receive even less if their spouse has significant income, since the calculation of the AAH is made on the whole household income. Add to this the price of a good mutual, between 150 and 200 euros per month, essential when you have medical expenses. This is all that prevents Martine, now 43 years old and suffering from autism spectrum disorder, from leaving home, even if she is not fulfilled in her relationship.

"My husband is very nice, but it is constant reproaches:" You're happy to eat, it's me who brings home food ". He thinks I'm good because I do not work. I would not stay with him if I was not addicted. But I can not live without him from a financial point of view. When you're disabled, living alone means being in survival. "

This economic dependency also feeds the resentment of the caregivers, and promotes the first psychological violence: "They are often accused of being unproductive, of being a mouth to feed", analyzes Isabelle Dumont.

Emma *, the one who was raped by her husband of whom I spoke earlier, was able to flee because she was a manager when it happened. But she is aware that her case is not necessarily the most common: "Those who live on AAH are trapped".

Lack of emergency accommodation

To be able to leave, one should at least be assured of being rehoused easily, which, when one needs a suitable housing, or of dedicated personnel, raises the wager.

"If we are still told that at least one room (or apartment) will be accessible to people with reduced mobility, the issue of accessibility for other women with disabilities is much more difficult, especially when we talk about women with disabilities. psychic or intellectual disability-lack of resources always being invoked »explains Marie Conrozier, project manager for FDFA.

In early November, a woman with motor disabilities, victim of domestic violence, contacted their association, she says. An accessible emergency shelter had been found for her. "The problem is that this accommodation is several tens of kilometers from home and she could not find any transport to accompany her to this hotel"says Marie Conrozier.

At the National Federation Solidarité Femmes, which manages nearly 2,700 emergency shelters in France for women victims of domestic violence, the disability "Is one of the priority criteria", according to Françoise Brié, its director general. But the leader recognizes that women with disabilities "Have multiple issuesAnd that it is sometimes difficult to articulate housing and specialized services. The problem is also in the accessibility of the line of listening: "They have more difficulty reaching us"She analyzes.

At FIT, a "women's roof" association, sixty beds are reserved for young women aged between 18 and 25 who are victims of gender-based and sexual violence, but no room is currently adapted for people with reduced mobility. A new project foresees 15% of accessible places, but it will not see the day before two years, explains Marie Cervetti, its director.

Disability increases violence … and violence increases disability

After shelter, or after the past storm, comes the moment of care and reconstruction. Where would come, logically. The problem is that many of these women, who like many victims of sexual violence often fail to express themselves right away, are not "spotted". "Physicians will tend to associate a post-traumatic symptom with an evolution of disability. The handicap will hide the trauma which consequently will not be identified or treated »explains Isabelle Dumont.

But a trauma that is not treated will increase the handicap, or make it more difficult to live. For example, someone with autism often has difficulty sleeping, and sexual abuse increases these problems. Autism and trauma will tend to reinforce each other, because in this disorder the sensoriality is already exacerbated, or modified. We speak of hypersensoriality or hyposensoriality.

«Sexual violence will have a psychotraumatic impact much more severe on them than on people without ASD [trouble du spectre de l’autisme, ndlr], because of their integration and emotional control disorders, they present much more marked phenomena of dissociation and dissociation during the violence with greater and less controllable reactivations of their traumatic memory, which continually aggravates their traumas by making them to revive the violence "says Dr. Muriel Salmona.

"Disability no longer matters, it's like having brown eyes"


The physical pains are also increased, we know that they are felt more or less strongly depending on the psychological state. And the living space, already restricted for people with disabilities, is further reduced: "We are more defiant towards the public space", summarizes Lisa *.

Violence increases disability, and can also create new ones. Hearing loss from blows is not uncommon, for example. And women who have suffered significant violence can remain with heavy physical damage, in addition to psychic sequelae.

#MeToo symbol of hope for some

At the end of these stories so hard, so revolting, some of these women manage to rebuild themselves, showing an immense courage and a force out of the ordinary. That's what I said to myself, at least listening to Emma *, for example, and her voice full of gaiety, which can not be swayed by events. She speaks herself of a "Rupture of lifeAnd a "Renaissance": "It's like I've been pulverized, and I had to get back from it all. Today I am very peaceful, I have become a free woman again, a woman who can have desires. Disability no longer matters, it's like having brown eyes. "

Hard to say if #MeToo had an impact on these women. Isabelle Dumont explains that she did not receive more calls during the first months on the line of listening of the association. But the people who contact her are generally rather old and few on social networks, she adds later.

#MeToo has in any case "Changed the life" Valérie, and he has taken away his fear of acting, of disturbing, of making waves. When she blues, she listens to Oprah Winfrey's speech, and repeats itself: "Enough is enough!"

* The first names have been changed