A blind woman has said sexual assaults against disabled women are escalating, as she shared her own ‘frightening’ experience of being harassed on Steph’s Packed Lunch.
Dr Amy Kavanagh appeared on the Channel 4 lunchtime show – amid issues concerning women’s safety dominating the news following Sarah Everard’s murder in south London – to highlight how disabled women are often targeted by men while out in public and sexually assaulted or harassed
Over the last four years, she has been campaigning to raise awareness of the attacks on disabled women and stressed that incidents are still ‘escalating’.
Sharing her own experience on Wednesday, Dr Kavanagh said that she has been left ‘frightened’ multiple times after men have approached her and been physical or aggressive towards her.
She recalled being groped and someone trying to take her somewhere against her will, as she explained to host Steph McGovern that incidences like this happen around once or twice a month.
‘An average of once to twice a month, I’ve experienced either aggressive physical behaviour or sexual behaviour – usually from men. They will take advantage of the fact that it is seen as nice to assist a disabled person, whether they ask for it or not,’ she explained.
‘They will announce that they are going to help me. They will say, “Don’t worry love, I’ll help you across the road,’ and usually in the process of doing it they might grope my breast or make inappropriate sexual comments,’ Dr Kavanagh said.
‘They won’t let go of me and try to take me somewhere against my will, they will quiz me on my experiences of sexual intimacy and it’s very frightening.’
A shocked Steph asked her what she does when in that situation and Dr Kavanagh told her she goes into ‘survival mode’.
She revealed: ‘With the grabbing, more generally, I’ve come up with a solution. I just make a noise. I found when I was saying to people, “please don’t touch me, please don’t let go,” they would either ignore me… or it would get very hostile.
‘People would swear at me and call me ungrateful etc, so now I just make like a bit of a squawk almost and that makes people react where they take their hands off me – because otherwise, I’m genuinely to’ing and fro’ing saying, “please let go.”‘
Dr Kavanagh claimed that when she has previously reported what happened to the police, nothing has come of it.
She said: ‘I was told the first time I reported it – a man had followed me through a train station and kept grabbing me, trying to touch my breasts and making inappropriate comments. When I reported it to the police, they said that I was confused and that it was probably just a homeless person.’
You were amazing on Steph. Congratulations on raising awareness of this.
— Rita Morse ? (@ritafromrovrum) March 15, 2021
Well done Amy and wow I am sorry this is how it is for you.
— Mel Merritt (@MelBMerritt) March 15, 2021
Such an important issue to raise! Well done and thank you for sharing your experiences?
— Swansea University Transcription Centre (@SUTranscription) March 15, 2021
Excellent that you spoke about this on TV – her reactions were spot on. Yes it’s appalling and completely unacceptable that this is done to you.
— Swazi Kaur (@SwaziRodgers) March 15, 2021
Sharing her interview with Steph to Twitter, Dr Kavanagh stressed: ‘It is vital that you always get consent before assisting a disabled person & if you witness someone being harassed please offer support or offer to be a witness.’
She was praised by fellow Twitter users for raising awareness of the increasing sexual assaults against disabled women and for openly sharing her own experiences.
‘Excellent that you spoke about this on TV – her reactions were spot on. Yes it’s appalling and completely unacceptable that this is done to you,’ tweeted one person.
Another said: ‘Well done Amy and wow I am sorry this is how it is for you.’
‘Such an important issue to raise! Well done and thank you for sharing your experiences,’ said one more user who reached out.
One more agreed: ‘You were amazing on Steph. Congratulations on raising awareness of this.’
Steph’s Packed Lunch airs weekdays on Channel 4 from 12.30pm.