Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – 5AA Interview on Foggy Frogg Children’s Book, Domestic Violence Conference and Sex Education for People with Disabilities

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent, what have you been up to?

Kelly Vincent: Yesterday I was down at Burnside Library at the launching of a book by a young author who’s written a children’s book to help young children and their families understand illnesses like chronic pain and chronic fatigue. I was very happy to help launch the book because the more discussion we can get around disability and less visible disabilities, the better. Great to see not only someone starting the discussion but really going a long way in terms of writing and illustrating their own book as well. The book is called Foggy Frog named after the brain fog that people with chronic illnesses get sometimes. If anyone’s interested they can find the details on the interwebs.

Andrew Reimer: What else have you got to report?

Kelly Vincent: Well this week I presented at conference on domestic violence here in Adelaide called ‘Prevalent and Preventable’ and in the panel discussion, I was particularly talking about the needs of people with disabilities and particularly women around domestic violence. Statistically people with disabilities and particularly women are at least two times more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse in their lifetimes compared to those without disabilities. For a woman with intellectual disability the research shows that as many as 90% will experience sexual or physical violence and a large proportion of that number will experience that abuse before they turn 18, which makes it a really important issue to tackle. I spoke a lot about the Disabilities Justice Plan and the associated legislation which Dignity for Disability has been very proud to progress through the Parliament with the assistance of the Government to make sure that the police and court systems are more accessible to people with disabilities and health conditions through the use of things like communication assistance so that if someone is non-verbal or communicates in a way other than speaking they can now be assisted to facilitate that communication or by someone who’s trained in doing that in a police or court interview and it’s really, really important. It also allows for things like audio-visual evidence to be given. If someone has issues with memory or is particularly traumatised they can present via video link. It also rules out things like asking questions that might deliberately confuse or upset a witness particularly if they have literacy issues or an intellectual disability.

Andrew Reimer: That intimidation that can occur.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and lead to some false information being gathered as well so it’s really important to change that. We’ve been very proud to spearhead this in the Parliament but it doesn’t end there and I also spoke about that we need more education and accessible education about relationships and sexuality and even just friendship for people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities miss out on formal sex education in schools, I myself was one of them and it happens for a variety of reasons. In my case it’s because it was part of the PE curriculum and I chose not to participate in PE because of my physical differences and it wasn’t until I left school that I realised that it had the unintended consequence of me missing out on sex education. For someone who is fairly open and also has a family that’s pretty open to talking about those things, it really probably didn’t make that much of a difference but for people with intellectual disabilities they often miss out on this education even when it is provided it’s often more accessible. I know of someone who provided education about safe sex to some people with intellectual disabilities and they demonstrated how to put a condom on using the end of a broomstick and the next morning there they were in the bed with someone with two broomsticks one on each side of the bed with a condom on the end of them. So it’s really important that we remember that not everyone learns the same way, everyone learns a bit differently and we need to provide some information to keep people safe and to allow people that normal human experience. I think often this denial of education around sex and relationships happens out of a desire to keep people safe, and I understand that completely; especially if it’s your child or someone you really care about, it’s natural to want to keep them safe. But unfortunately Andrew it’s my observation that denying people this kind of education actually does the exact opposite. Because nothing about not getting that education will take away your desire for those things. Friendships, relationship, sex, whatever it might be. If you do desire those things it’s completely against your ability to do it safely. That’s my observation. And of course these things are really difficult; we live in a society where these are very taboo subjects, we really need to tackle this for the wellbeing and happiness and safety of everyone.

Andrew Reimer: Yeah, the little story you just told a moment ago about the broomsticks, certainly puts a different connotation on the old bed knobs and broomsticks.

Kelly Vincent: We’ll see if the phone lines light up – but you’re right even when there is education provided, it assumes a prior level of knowledge; that isn’t always true of everyone and that can be for a variety of reasons. Not just disability either. It could be different cultural backgrounds, or different experiences in life or even just having a mind that thinks a bit differently, not necessarily related to disability. So it’s really important that we provide materials and education that are open and honest and also is accessible to lots of different people who learn in different ways.

Andrew Reimer: We talk about taboo subjects but we need to talk about taboo subjects in order to bring about awareness and acceptance of the differences that are out there in our society so that people who are vulnerable, aren’t taken advantage of and continue to be taken advantage of.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and of course it’s not just about people being taken advantage of; people with disabilities should have the same rights as everyone else to experience what’s often an enjoyable part of life. But you’re quite right, it does have the very [unclear] effect of making people potentially more susceptible to abuse. And, I think there’s two really important reasons that we need to tackle it, and talking about it being a taboo subject, one of my big frustrations that I find; probably less now but certainly in the beginning when I started to talk about these issues, on behalf of Dignity for Disability, some of the feedback I would get largely it was positive, but some of it was, ‘oh, I can’t believe you’re focussing on this issue when there’s footpaths that still need to be fixed or these laws that still need to be changed’. And of course we are working very hard on those things as well, but the reason we came to Parliament and the reason that I came into Parliament which was to make sure that all people had the right to an autonomous, enjoyable, safe and healthy life. And we need to start realising that for many, many people, relationships and everything from friendships to sexual relationships is part of that.

Andrew Reimer: And there’s more than just one issue when it comes to living with a disability as well. So there are certainly the obvious ones when you talk about footpaths and all the rest of it but there’s so many other aspects which have to be addressed as well. So good on you Kelly, thank you very much for coming on the program and creating more awareness out there about some of the obstacles that people with disabilities face in our community.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you Andrew, really appreciate it.