Consent-ability, we all have it

The recent Carly Fleischmann speaking up story demonstrates how some people still are still struggling to understand consent. CW: discussions of sexual assault.

In this patriarchal world where we use psychology to blame women, rather than face the fact our culture condones violence and we can be active agents of culture with language; some people have more issue with the word consent, than the other C words.

The other C words I mean are “colluding” with an abuser, or “condoning” the violence of an abuser.

Colluding and condoning are acts of violence by proxy.

If you haven’t been watching the news in this consent confused world; an Autistic woman and YouTuber Carly Fleischmann has spoken up about an sexual assault by her father’s male partner in a Facebook post. She’s been so frustrated with being gossiped about and accused of lying, so she’s gone public.

Her father weighs in and blames her, in one of the world’s most patronising replies ever.

Add to the usual debate about sexual misconduct the notion of disability and…
As an autistic woman, I’m super angry. I’m furiously angry.

“That’s not unusual”, I hear you say, and you’d be right, it’s common for people to blame the victim.  This is yet another demonstration of why women don’t speak up.

Her own father’s reply is effectively blaming the fact she is non-verbal.  He insinuates she isn’t clear enough.

Note the link to this text takes you to Carly’s interview YouTube series, not the articles about her speaking out, because I want the focus to shift back to her place in the world as a proficient communicator.  The issue is with her families lack of communication ability.

We all have consent-ability.  We all have the right to expect to be consenting to any sexual or sexualised behaviour.  Anyone who says differently is, no question about it, an abuser or the enabler of an abuser.

It’s the way her father weighs in. The tone of it (yes, written words have tone). The condescending tone, the not-listening tone. Even in a written reply it’s obvious.

The physical act of speaking isn’t the only way we communicate.  It isn’t primary either.   That’s why we say someone is “speaking up” when they write.

Stop measuring other people upon the bizarre measure of speech.  If that’s your only measure of any importance then music, painting, dance and any other form of communication is not valid either.  The over-emphasis on a person’s speech in discussions of disability is to ableism, what “speak English” is to racism.

I would have thought, that it would be painfully obvious that pelvis grinding any woman without consent has NOTHING to do with the fact she is non-verbal, yet that is the focus of every thing I have read today.

Her father’s response is a living demonstration of the kind of cultural “saving face” the world leaps to, when sexual misconduct occurs.  He leaps to his partner’s defence and blames Carly for not discussing the matter.  Seriously? When she has already and wasn’t heard? But even in his reply you get the picture that he’s really saying is because she is non-verbal (a picture, from a word, who’d have thought?).

So if you are going to blame anyone for being “non-verbal”, it’s this man buying into the myth making that “she lies” or that it’s a “misunderstanding”.  What’s worse he’s doing it to protect his own reputation primarily.

Which brings me to my point.  The disbelieving paternalism and tone are present in a non-verbal medium like Facebook.  And in every communication medium we should call it out.

I’m damn certain, that sexual assaulters, do not care if you are silent or otherwise, because it’s about power and control.  It’s about asserting power and control and manipulating the culture of blame the victim.

STOP.  Listen to her, however she chooses to communicate it.  Because by the time she’s gone to Facebook, she is in real danger of it happening again because she is not being heard.

As Sue Salthouse discusses, this is reality for women with disabilities, we are not heard, 40% more likely to be victims of domestic violence, with a twenty percent rate of unwanted sexual activity.

If people think Facebook is not the place for this…social media is important to the disability community.

Social media is often (but not always) our way of speaking up in a world that doesn’t want to acknowledge our humanity.

If you think calling for support on Facebook is a problem, you’re part of the silencing culture than condones violence and shames people for speaking out.

Social media and technology gets our messages out there, autonomously, without needing an able-bodied person to validate our existence by ‘approving’ our voice. Don’t you fucking dare tell us otherwise.

I’m autistic but I can be hyper-verbal. Being able to speak up hasn’t stopped me being sexually assaulted.  I can be really articulate and I can be really waffly.  Speech is a stim, I chatter when I’m anxious and that is most of the time. I appear extroverted because it’s survival technique, I am very introverted the moment I go home – and that feels natural, not a mask.

People then say I can’t be autistic because I speak and perform.  But the key word is performance.  I’ve learned this.  I had to and I could channel anxiety into speech, so I did.  But I really communicate best in writing.

You know what else 48 years of discrimination for being different has taught me?

Non-autistic people often say one thing and do another.  Their facial expressions don’t match the words and after years of noticing this, we know when you are lying.

Many of us have had to learn what these expressions mean.  I catalogued them for years, studying anthropology and looking at language.  But I have a logical understanding and the illogic of non-Autistic “saving face” baffles me still.  Stop trying to save face, it’s shit behaviour.

I am tired of experiencing the violence of “say and not do” or “not do and say”.  Sure, you might change your mind, but just say so…and surprise, surprise, mean it when you do.

Carly’s father’s reply is either classic gaslighting or dismissing her experience at the very least.  Either way it’s not good.

My Autistic sisters who are non-verbal are enormously valuable communicators.  The able-bodied world is just not listening, just not paying attention.  Please stop this monstrous measuring of their worth by a deficit model.

I was sexually assaulted at work, in a way that gets described as “low level”.  While I was locking up a building and other staff and volunteers left me alone and didn’t wait for me – a man tried to force his way in, groping at my breasts and making sexual comments.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, what happened next was abhorrent.  I experienced some mocking by disbelieving colleagues who thought…wait for it…thought I wasn’t reacting enough! I was too calm.

It took everyone ounce of my courage to talk about it.  I ended up having to take 12 weeks off, was suicidal for a period of that and self-harming at one point. Because speaking up and being dismissed caused a new level of harm to me.

My attempts to have an email sent out with new security measures were ignored, I was expected to do that myself, because I “shouldn’t have been there alone”.  It wasn’t a message for everyone…just for me.  I was made fun of by people when I insisted the new system be put into place.

A complaint to a government Minister about support for workers near licensed premises and public drunkedness and the experience took nine weeks to be replied to.  I couldn’t read it by then because I was just starting to feel like counselling was scratching the surface.  I replied telling them I couldn’t read it because it would re-traumatise me.

Prior to that I’ve been raped by a partner.  On more than one occasion.  I’ve been subjected to all sorts of bullshit from family, friends and colleagues who only began to believe me when I was so affected a medical professional had to get involved.

Apparently it had to come from a medical professional, not from me.  There are so many layers of bullshit here, I just cannot express.

And people wonder why we leave our families.  This is why.  And people wonder why we are angry and lashing out at our families.  This is why.   These microaggression’s weigh heavily in accumulative value, every day.  It’s worse when it’s people who are supposed to love you.

It’s exhausting.  Watching people try and deceive us because we are Autistic and they think they can lie without consequence, that’s exhausting.  It exhausting, it’s dangerous, it’s dehumanising…need I go on?

And that doesn’t mean, when you practice honesty, that it has to be cruel in delivery, which is often what people resort to. And then some people, busy telling us to be more like them, have the nerve to call us communication impaired.

Saving face “disables” everyone. Just stop.

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