The article title reads “Police: Woman with disability raped.” As I read the title, my first thoughts are: “why isn’t this article titled “Another man consciously decided to force himself on a woman” or “Man couldn’t control his sexual desires forces them on a victim with a disability”? Understandably, the headline that spotlights the victim typically draws readers to pick up and purchase the newspaper. But why don’t we highlight the real issue when it comes to sexual assault and violence. Often when the victim is highlighted in cases like this, we miss the boat about the root cause(s) of the crime. We miss the source of the crimes. While it is of utmost important to ensure the victim receives the treatment and services he or she needs as a result of the crime, it’s also important to shed light on the person who committed the crime. A person made a deliberate choice to violate another person. A person made a decision to hurt another human being. A person invaded a home and sexually assaulted the resident. In this case the person who was violated has a developmental disability.
Reading this article was especially difficult for me because I work with adults with developmental disabilities. I have an uncle who has a developmental disability. There are several other friends and family in my circle who live with disabilities. It was difficult to process how a person could violate a vulnerable person someone so intimately. In my eyes, this man, Manson Isar, who admitted to the police that he knew his victim has a disability, grossly neglected to see the woman as a human with her own personality, feelings, goals, rights, dreams and desires. He forcibly took something from within this woman. He took something she could never have again. He took her trust. He took her privacy. He took her hopes and dreams. He raped her. He did all these things. Whether she can say it or not, she will never be the same again.
I don’t know this woman. But I’ve learned by working in the domestic violence and sexual assault arena that people with disabilities have a higher risk for being victims of sexual violence. Some of these reasons include difficulty in knowing who to trust and who not to trust, they may not feel empowered to say “no”, they may have difficulties in communicating, or they may depend on others to meet many of their daily needs. What I know is that all people, regardless of their ability, is unique and have their own set of values, dreams, hopes, goals, and desires. It breaks my heart that this man’s actions robbed this woman of so much more than she may be able to express. My work includes facilitating a support group for women with disabilities who are victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Women have shared that their dignity is taken, their trust is broken, they’re emotionally scarred, and they’re living in the dark after being assaulted. But these women find their light and become stronger women. What will happen to this man?
This man may serve time for his crimes. But will he learn to appreciate and respect others? Will he gain the knowledge and skills to make different choices in the future? What about the other men and women who have been convicted of similar crimes? What is being done to keep them from repeating these offenses on our vulnerable members of the community? And what is being done to teach future generations that the strangers who live among us are people who deserve to be treated and respected as human beings. We are living souls. We are God’s children. There must be something that we can do to address the heart of the problems that exists. Telling victims and potential victims how to be safe can only address one side of the story. We need to intervene at a different level. We need to address the part of the community who is committing these crimes and say “What do you need? How can we help you? What is it that you need in order to make better decisions, less hurtful decisions in your life?” We need to teach people that it is not ok to rape and hurt others.
These victims did not entice their batterer or perpetrator to commit such horrible crimes. These criminals believed they should commit these crimes and acted upon this belief. Something inside Manson Isar told him it was “ok” to rape this woman. And he acted upon this belief. Help is available for the victim. But what can we, as a community, do to keep other people from acting like Manson Isar?
Jirrah Paz Bautista
Jirrah is the STOP Violence Against Elderly and Women with Disability Program Coordinator at Guma’ Mami. If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, or human trafficking there are resources available. You can contact Guma’ Mami, Inc. at 477-1505 or email Jirrah at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.