Sexual health within the disability space can still be a really taboo subject, but it definitely does not have to be.
We are all humans that deserve the right to different human connections and experiences, so why would someone that has a disability be any different? Why should society make the rules for someone’s existence if they have not experienced this themselves?
Now I know these seem like redundant questions from someone who does not have disabilities, but I want to be a part of creating a world that openly discusses the need of sexual health for people with disabilities, so that all people have equal opportunities to be safe and feel loved and so I can feel comfortable with the conversations I will inevitably have with my Daughter who herself has a brain injury.
At Marli and Moe we were recently involved in organising a great event with Physio Inq, Home Care Heroes and NDSP. This event is held for Support Coordinators monthly at different locations with different topics aimed at bringing education to the forefront of our roles to assist Support Coordinators and their clients with up to date information and processes whilst also trying to inspire that little part of us all that makes us the people who work in disability services and genuinely want our clients to succeed with their NDIS plans.
This month’s event was based around the premise of sexual health and I have to say that I am extremely thankful for the information that was shared on the day and very appreciative of the level of respect that was shown by my peers in the industry to truly want more information in order to support their clients with appropriate information.
Let’s get to the Nitty Gritty
There are so many different debates surrounding the issue of consent at the moment especially for someone that has an intellectual disability. Both sides of this debate do have valid points as long as they are considered with the understanding that most people with disabilities are of course going to have similar desires as we all do.
If you have not done so already you should listen to the podcast “The Hook Up” at ABC with Nat Tencic on the topic Sex and relationships when you have an intellectual disability it is featuring:
- Amie O’Shea, Research Fellow in the school of Health and Social Development at Deaken University.
- Natasha Alexander, Clinical Psychologist who specializes in working with people with Intellectual and Cognitive Disabilities.
- Linda Stokoe, Peer Educator, Sexual Lives and Respectful Relationships program at Deaken University.
The discussion is very open and educational to the barriers that exist for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities and the level of consent they can give whilst also deserving the right to be included in appropriate human connections.
Australian Sex Workers
We had the absolute pleasure of having Rachel Wotton attend and be a key speaker at our February event. Rachel is an Australian sex worker that is a towering force alongside Touching Base Inc to highlight the need for her services for people with disabilities.
If there is anything you take away from this blog it should be the documentary Scarlet Road. The full version is available, and it explains that the services of Australian sex workers for people with disabilities is not just for sex. It is about human touch, sensual connection, laughter and joy. For some people, they will choose to see sex workers for many years, while others utilize their services to increase their confidence and ability to possibly start their own relationships with someone in the future. if this is something they are able and willing to do why shouldn’t they be assisted in whatever way possible. After all isn’t the NDIS all about capacity building?
The NDIS does not consider the services of a sex worker to be an appropriate use of NDIS funds (YET!), but they do agree with the funds being supplied for certain supports surrounding the connection.
They offer 1-2 hour info sessions and full day workshops at different organisation’s premises for staff to learn together (“Touching Base at your place”) They have also just announced their next Service Provider Awareness Training (SPAT) workshop to be held on 27th June 2019 at Ashfield.
See here for details: https://www.touchingbase.org/workshops-and-training/spat
Get the Facts
Erin Donnelly from Family Planning was an amazing wealth of knowledge at the event and I have to say I was very impressed with the content she brought along with an immense amount of fact sheets because the important part to remember with the connection of sexual health and disability is that it isn’t just about the physical act, there are so many different elements to sexual health that can get overlooked for example:
- Cervical and breast screening
- Consent and sex
- Fertility and infertility
- Gynaecological health
- HIV and AIDS
- Men’s health
- Parents and carers
and so much more!!! I can’t stress enough how important it is to look into these tools, so please Get the Facts.
Family Planning NSW Talkline is a contact number with experienced nurses who are available to answer any questions or give free and confidential advice / information on a wide range of reproductive and sexual health issues. The number to call is 1300 658 886 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are so many things that can be discussed regarding supports out there for people who need it, but (so little time!) I would like to mention that there are also relationship counsellors who do a fantastic job at educating clients and families with the respect the difficult situations deserve. I recommend looking out for these services.
Liz Dore from Relationships and Private Stuff has been doing some really great work in the disability space with one on one counselling, workshops, educating families etc. to assist clients with all things friendship, relationship and private stuff based as the name says, it doesn’t get more obvious than that!
Image Reference: https://twitter.com/lizdoreraps
The take away
This blog was compiled in the hopes that some information and eye opening could be taken away that although the idea of discussing all things sex can be a bit uncomfortable at times there is so much more to the world of sexual health and disabilities.
If we cannot have honest discussions surrounding safe practices and the genuine need to human connection, then the risk of harm to people with and without disabilities is extremely heightened.
I would like to commend everyone working in the disability space (and those who are supporting through shear passion) to educate and support the sharing of information to keep this momentum going, but most importantly all of the people with disabilities that are helping with these discussions because we would be nowhere without your help.
Keep educating the educators because they are relying on your insight and we appreciate the help to open our eyes as much as possible to the difficulties you face daily.
Remember it’s just SEXual health!
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