It is an alarming statistic: People with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate of seven times higher than those without disabilities. Studies show that 83 percent of women and 32 percent of men are sexual assault victims at some time in their lives.
Our culture often doesn’t acknowledge that people with disabilities are also sexual beings. This can lead to a lack of sexual education to support safe and healthy sexual relationships in their personal lives and in the workplace.
Mad Hatter Wellness LLC in St. Paul received a Minnesota Department of Human Services Disability Innovation Grant to partner with ten organizations who work with adults with disabilities in a variety of settings.
Rise was one selected to receive their Sexuality for All Abilities training which includes customized sessions for three different groups: individuals Rise serves, caregivers/family members, and Rise team members with train-the-trainer sessions.
Based on an overall theme of “My body belongs to me,” people in the training sessions watch videos, participate in frank discussions, and have their questions answered regarding:
* What does it mean to have a healthy relationship?
* What do healthy relationships and healthy sexuality look like for people with disabilities?
*How can we best support people in creating and maintaining relationships that are both healthy and fulfilling?
Rise piloted the program at our Coon Rapids and Spring Lake Park locations with plans to expand to other sites in the coming months.
“We are excited to partner with Mad Hatter on this important issue,” said Becky Rother, Rise’s director of Quality Assurance. “This gives Rise the resources and opportunity to bring this programming to the people we support, help raise awareness, and assist people in having the happy, healthy lives they desire. We want Rise team members to feel comfortable talking about this topic, promote self-advocacy and boundaries, and teach people the skills they need to speak up for themselves.”
“We have had some really thought-provoking and challenging conversations that focused on relationships, boundaries and appropriate touch, primarily in the workplace” said Anna Hayek, an educator with Mad Hatter Wellness who helped lead the sessions at Rise. “I think the videos, handouts, and frank discussions about real-life tricky siutations helped everyone learn in their best way.”
Mad Hatter Wellness’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for people of all abilities through empowerment, education, awareness, and movement to globally eliminate sexual violence. Its team of professionals provide classes, workshops, and retreats that empower children and adults with and without disabilities.
This article appears in the September 2019 issue of the Rise Reporter.