exerpt from “femora and fury: on IPV and disability”
At every juncture, society is complicit in the abuse of disabled victims. For example, an abuser will isolate a victim of intimate partner violence. If that victim is wheelchair-bound, and very few venues in town are wheelchair-accessible, the abuser is not the only one isolating her: society has shut her out by relinquishing responsibility for accommodation.
….Ironically, what endears a batterer to a disabled victim is often his investment in her vulnerability, which most of society insults, ignores, and doesn’t respond to in an empowering way. All abusers are dependent on keeping their victims vulnerable – a fact that transcends disability. This attunement to the power imbalance can give abusers a sixth sense about what a disabled person needs, and how to give or withdraw it for the purpose of control. This is no small thing when other able-bodied people just stand by and don’t offer help. Few people know the intricate ergonomics of a disabled person’s life, even though her ability to function or very survival depends upon these things. What puts the “I” in Intimate Partner Violence is often this: abusers may see intimately into a complex reality that most people do not notice or care about.
For example, I tried to explain to my family for years why I needed someone to be on call 24 hours a day due to my erratic medical emergencies, my need for someone to bring me food and water while I was lying down unable to move, and my need for someone to nurse me during my many unpredictable crashes after having a chemical exposure or exerting myself. They offered inconsistent bursts of help and care– a week here and a few days there. They assumed that someone out there would fill in the gaps between these weeks and days. But I had nobody to do it, nobody but an abuser carefully tuned in to my vulnerabilities. While others in my life would try to create a cheerful mood and bring me take-out food, my abuser would dig in to the gritty realities of my disability, draping a blanket over my legs before I even said I was cold and bringing me a glass with a straw so I could drink lying down. These were the acts of kindness woven into the abuse, but without them I wouldn’t have survived. This isn’t to excuse the abuser’s heinous behavior, but to point out that until people are given the resources to live healthy, functional lives, they will be easy prey no matter how many Model Mugging techniques they know.
peggy munson, in the revolution starts at home: confronting partner abuse in activist communities (free download at the link, largeish pdf file)