Exploring the intersection of Rape Culture and Disability with Forum Theatre

Context

We are conducting an important three-year project funded by Status of Women Canada addressing the issue of rape culture. Our project focuses on partnerships with colleges/CEGEPs to develop policy solutions, pedagogical strategies and knowledge mobilization approaches that respond to this problem. We believe that college campuses are an important point of engagement addressing rape culture as it is the bridge between high school and university and adult life.

During the past two years we have been with Forum Theatre as a strategy with our partners, The topic of each script came from our collaborators and was developed in deep consultation with many experts, survivors and key collaborators. Our previous scripts were:

  • Disclosure Dilemma - which explore the complexities of telling others about an incident in a classroom setting
  • Man Down - which explores toxic masculinity among male students

This year we are developing a forum theatre script which explores the intersection of rape culture and disability(ies).

 

What is/are disability(ies)?

We are exploring multiple definitions of disability currently we are working with:

 “An umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions; an impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.”

 

Why Forum Theatre?

Forum theater is a tool for exploring and rehearsing possible actions that people can take to diminish oppression and a laboratory to experiment with different courses of action. It teaches us that, as in life, if they don’t intervene, nothing will change, but also that doing “something” is not enough, it must be a strategic something. It can also allow us to explore possible solutions for a systemic problem. One of its main benefit is generating both solidarity and a sense of empowerment for the situation to change, from the audience. It can also teach us what we’re doing wrong when fixing a systemic problem.

 

Why focus on the intersection of disability and rape culture?

People with disabilities:

  • are affected by rape culture disproportionally. This population experiences it more with less resources available. 
  • are sexually victimized more often than others who do not have a disability and are more affected by sexual violence culture. In fact, sexual abuse is, oftentimes, the only sexual experience that they experience. For example, one study reported that 49 percent of people with intellectual disabilities will experience 10 or more sexually abusive incidents. 
  • want to have relationships, love and romance. They want the same things as anyone else, but it's harder for them. They are very lonely, which makes them vulnerable to sexual violence.
  • may not understand what is happening or have a way to communicate the assault to a trusted person. Those with less severe disabilities may realize they are being assaulted, but don’t know that it’s illegal and that they have a right to say no.
  • may never tell anyone about the abuse due to threats to their well-being or that of their loved ones by the abuser. 

 

References

http://sacha.ca/resources/statistics

SACHA supports survivors of sexual assault while working to end sexual violence.

 

https://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/

The World Health Organization sensibilize the general public to global problems and to marginalized people.

 

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/09/572929725/for-some-with-intellectual-disabilities-ending-abuse-starts-with-sex-ed

This article, which is part of a series, describes how sex education can help people with disabilities avoid being victim of sexual violence.

 

https://www.thearc.org/what-we-do/resources/fact-sheets/sexual-violence

The Arc is an organization that helps people with disabilities in various problems. This article helps people with disabilities avoid sexual violence.

 

https://beautifultrouble.org/tactic/forum-theater/

This article explains how Forum Theatre works and what are its benefits.

 

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/healthsciences/business_partnership/innovations/forum_theatre.page

This article made by the University of South Hampton describes the aim and the process of Forum Theatre