No, I won’t run away with you just because you’ve read my blog.
My third blog — I can hear you screaming ‘but you promised it would only be one!’. Well, clearly not, sorry :)
This one may be a bit different, slightly less flippant. If you follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, you may have seen my post about approaches being made to me following my first couple of blogs….the most recent by someone who wants to ‘date an armless woman’ which got me questioning how on earth peoples minds work and what they expected my response to be (don’t even get me started on the images they have on their media presence). Just as a bit of background, theoretically I have a level of awareness of how folks think; I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters in Forensic Psychology. I’ve spent the best part of 18 years working with people going through the most awful times, including 6 years working in police custody and prisons and have led on safeguarding for various organisations in various roles so I’m not naïve about this stuff. But I still don’t get it. I don’t get why people look at me/others and potentially either see ‘vulnerable’ (i.e. try to pat me on the head, or even worse actually pat me on the head), ‘game’ (i.e. clearly must be in need of someone to love. FYI, I met him 21 years ago and we’re all good) or just ‘fair game’ (i.e. it doesn’t matter what they want, I’ll do what I please). Why would someone read a blog about seeing past disability and yet only see the disability and then why on earth would they think its a) acceptable to make contact for dubious purposes and b) expect me to respond positively!! I use Twitter and Linkedin predominantly for professional purposes (with the odd personal stuff thrown it because I really am more than a job title) and so am pretty measured but I am generally far less measured in my personal life.
In 2003 a man I didn’t know felt he had the right to put his hands on me and didn’t think I could do anything about it because of said disability. That's not my assumption, that's what he told me. He went to prison for it so was clearly wrong about what I could and couldn’t do. However, he still fundamentally believed he had a right. He’d written 3 poems which he read to me (I know — how romantic). They increased in the levels of violence but the one that stuck out to me was about how he saw a woman he wanted in a club who was wearing a wedding ring. His poem went on to say she was only wearing that to ‘tease’ him (I’ll spare you the actual words) and that because of this, she deserved whatever she got and whatever he did to her. This all happened on a train and as we left the train, he put his arm round me like we were actually together. He walked me through the station concourse whispering sweet nothings like we had a genuine connection. He even told me he was going for a drink and invited me along (very helpfully as it gave the wonderful police officers a location for him and CCTV). I’m not telling you any of this for sympathy, please don’t go down that road, I made a very conscious decision that it would not shape me nor shape the faith I had in people however its draining that we’re still in a society where people believe they can say and do stuff that they would be ashamed of their Grandma finding out. I could probably write a dissertation length paper on some of the wildly inappropriate and offensive things that have been said to me and sometimes by the most wildly inappropriate people. In my first blog, I implored you not to beat yourself up if you say the wrong thing and I totally stand by that but that's on the assumption that you aren’t being a ****. Please, if you are — keep it quiet and question yourself.
For every person like him above, I’ve met hundreds of fabulous, kind, caring, normal people who show the world to be the wonderful thing it is. All of us have the duty and privilege to shape our own circles; challenge the crappy language people use, bring up the small folk to be kind, understanding and know that just because they want something it doesn’t mean they can take it, and for us all to go the extra mile, especially now. I was a student in 2003 and so (as students do) I moved a lot. After the guys arrest, he did a bunk to India for two years and it went to court quite a while later after I’d left uni. The police officer who took my statement happened to remember I’d mentioned the town I grew up in and called everyone in that town with my surname until he found my Mum, who gave him my contact details so he could let me know what had been happening and the outcome — he’d pleaded guilty and been sentenced. That effort, consideration and kindness is the thing I remember. Be like him.