Last week I attended a hui called “Zero Tolerance to Abuse” run by People First and the Auckland Disability Law.
It was a hui focussed on stopping violence, abuse, sexual abuse, bullying and neglect in the disability sector. My initial interest was that I believe there is a significant relationship between those people who have a disability, and those people who have experienced mental distress and/or addictions – perhaps more than is recognised.
There was an amazing group of people in attendance and I was able to meet a number of colleagues I had worked with in the past, and meet and swap details with some new ones who are involved in some really interesting work as well. The variety of people’s represented was impressive, refugee and migrant communities, addiction services, Pacific island communities, Maori services, government funders, Police, youth services, researchers, and the list goes on.
The hui was primarily run and presented by people with disabilities. People told incredibly powerful and at times shocking stories of their own experiences of abuse, violence and neglect, and how they had survived these. I was reminded of the strength of humans to overcome in the face of adversity, and the strength in numbers and having a common voice.
One of the objections that was made during the hui by people was the use of the description ‘vulnerable people’. Instead people felt they preferred to be referred to as ‘targeted’ – a very different word indeed. The thesaurus offers words such as ‘weak’, ‘defenceless’, and ‘helpless’ as alternatives to vulnerable. However some of the alternatives for ‘targeted’ are words such as under attack and under fire. These are quite different descriptions. The word vulnerable is an adjective, describing the person who the abuse is centred on, the word targeted is a verb, describing an act rather than a person. Hence it seems to me that the focus, the responsibility and the blame lies in different places. I thought this was a very powerful differentiation identified by people, and seemed to represent to me, the power and potency that a group of people who have experienced abuse and neglect have together.
Two documents were presented at the hui one from Paul Gibson, the disability rights commissioner, and a piece of research completed by Dr Michael Roguski – the astounding Tairawhiti Voice Report on abuse of disabled people.
The hui had a profound impact on me and I am very grateful to have been invited. If you want to make contact with the organisers to register your interest in the following one, please contact:
People FirstNew Zealand
Nga Tanganta Tuatahi
Team Leader North, Northern Region Co-ordinator
0275754000| 094448 166|