Combating violence against women: the role of women with disabilities – Virtual conference

On 8 October 2021, the Belgian national event of the No Means No project took place. This one-day virtual conference aimed at overcoming the divisions that may exist and building bridges between the disability and anti-violence sectors between the disability sector and the “anti-violence” sector, for an intersectional approach to the prevention and fight against violence against women with disabilities. It was also an opportunity to give a voice to women with disabilities, and thus draw political attention to their realities in this regard.

We were honoured to welcome as moderator Charlotte Puiseux, doctor of philosophy, clinical psychologist, and relay mother of the association Handiparentalité. We were also fortunate to have Christie Morreale, Vice-President of the Walloon Government, Minister of Employment, Training, Health, Social Action, Equal Opportunities and Women’s Rights, Anne-Françoise Cannella, Deputy General Administrator of the AVIQ, Michel Mercier, Professor Emeritus and Director of the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Liège, accompanied by Céline Brison, psychologist at the asbl La Boulaie and Angélique Rousseaux, self-advocate, Ann Van den Buys, founding member and president of the asbl Perséphone, and last but not least Sarah Schlitz, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity.

The official language of the conference was French and the conference was accompanied by a simultaneous transcription (of which you can find the written text in French under this link). The conference was also translated into Belgian-French Sign Language and you can rewatch the conference (in French and SL) in its entirety:

Jana: bus to school

Once, I missed the bus to go to school. But I had a test that day and didn’t want to be late. So I tried to hitch a ride. A van stopped, and the driver seemed “normal”. I showed him the direction where I wanted to go with my arm, telling him where I wanted to go. He said that he needed to stop to get petrol and stopped in an empty garage. I tried to make him understand that I was in a hurry and signed « straight ahead ». He touched my breast, stuck out his tongue and showed me his penis. So I pushed back his hand and continued signing authoritatively « straight ahead, hurry up, I’ve got a test ! ». Finally, he drove me to school. I ran inside and started crying and told my story, and my test was postponed. 

Nadia: on the bus

I was riding in an accessible transport van. I was the only passenger and saw that the driver looked at me in a threatening way through the rearview mirror. When we arrived at my place, I took the initiative and said, “Here we are.” He said, “You are not yet on the sidewalk.” I looked straight into his eyes and answered, “No, but I know that I will be there shortly.” Then he helped me off the bus.

Sylvie: at home

I was at home sleeping when I woke up from sensing heavy steps. Three men were in my apartment, the landlord and two other guys. I yelled, “AAAAAHHHHH! What are you doing in here?” The landlord answered that they wanted to repair something and that they had knocked on the door. I told them, “You do not have the right to enter, I don’t feel comfortable. I already told you to call me in advance to warn me.” He apologised, and they left.

At the train station

For my work, I have to transit for an hour every day to a big city. When I am tired after a long working day, my concentration decreases and that makes it more difficult for me to find my way. Therefore I am always happy when people help me. Above all when I am late and want to catch my train. On one of those days, a man offered to guide me on my way to the station, and I accepted with thanks. 

Kasja : a bus stop downtown

Four young men approach me, they smell of alcohol. One starts to rub against my back and blows at my neck. I’m one metre forty, he’s much taller. The rest laugh. No one at the bus stop reacts.

I move away, turn around and get my footing, legs astride, as if my feet sprung root. I look at him straight in the eye and say firmly, “Ain’t you getting too close?” The guy apologizes and leaves, apparently shocked. His friends follow.