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Access-ABLE, Gender Relations Center aim to raise awareness on violence against people with disabilities

| Tuesday, April 20, 2021

In recognition of Sexual Violence Awareness Month, Access-ABLE of Notre Dame and the Gender Relations Center (GRC) have partnered together to host “No Longer Silent,” a tabling event seeking to raise awareness about the prevalence of violence against people with disabilities.

Representatives from Access-ABLE and the GRC were stationed at tables on North and South Quad near each of the dining tents from noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday. They will be there again from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Those passing by can engage in conversation and grab resources, stickers and buttons from the GRC and the Sara Bea Center for Students with Disabilities.

Signs are also being displayed with statistics about violence against people with disabilities and quotes from members of the campus community about their experiences having a disability.

Claire Reid | The Observer

Emily Voorde, advisor for Access-ABLE and Sara Bea’s assistant director for education and outreach, was at the North Quad table Monday. She explained the significance of including the quotes, which were collected via a Google form, in the signs.

“We wanted to continue dialogue on campus about not only what violence and ableism look like, but what it looks like for people,” Voorde said. “Not only those who are visibly disabled, but [who] have invisible disabilities including mental health and chronic illness, etcetera,” Voorde says.

The assortment of signs included stories of both positive and negative experiences with disability, and many recounted the experiences of individuals whose unseen disabilities have been trivialized.

“Maybe you just need to get more sleep,” an anonymous sophomore with anxiety and insomnia said they were told, per a sign. “Then you’ll feel better.”

Claire Reid | The Observer

GRC program coordinator for healthy relationships and community outreach, Kaitlyn Stankiewicz, worked alongside Voorde to plan the event, which has been in the works since the beginning of March.

Stankiewicz said the event is important because it considers violence from an intersectional perspective — that of people with disabilities — which is often overlooked. 

“We should look at violence prevention with an intersectional lens,” Stankiewicz said. “Different people are impacted in different ways and we need to make sure others are aware of this … For this event, in particular, we wanted to shed light specifically on those with disabilities and how violence and microaggressions impact them.”

In the future, Stankiewicz said, she hopes to hold intersectional events to raise awareness about how violence impacts those of different religions, races, socioeconomic statuses and sexual orientations as well.

But as for this week’s event, she said she hopes people leave with newfound awareness of an issue many people do not know much about.

“I hope that people walk away more aware of how violence impacts others generally, as well as more specific to different groups and populations such as those with disabilities,” Stankiewicz said. “While it’s important that we talk about sexual violence, it’s also important to realize that that horrible experience is different for different groups because of the different identities we hold. We should try to hear about this experience from a variety of perspectives so we can know more and do more in the future.”

According to Voorde, this awareness-raising goal has been achieved.

“So far we’ve had some really good traffic,” Voorde said Monday afternoon. “I think a lot of people have had the same reaction that maybe this just isn’t something that they’ve thought about before, so it’s really neat to welcome them into conversation.”

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