Growing up as a physically disabled female was, of course, met with its challenges. But the biggest challenge I faced was growing older and watching my sisters and my friends begin to date. My desire for a boy to like me really started when I was in high school. The first year there, I did make friends, a few very good male friends. My disability would always play a part. As you read this article, you’ll not only discover the challenges of dating, but serious issues many young women face, disabled or not, such as physical abuse and sexual assault.
As time passed, I did find those in school I would love to have dated. I watched my friends settle into relationships, and go out on the weekends. There were times that I was asked to go along when they went to movies or parties, but I felt like a third wheel. It grew difficult watching them hold hands and kiss while I sat by, thinking I really should have stayed home… Then, there was the phrase my mother always said “There’s someone out there for everyone.” Believing that was just way too difficult.
When I was 17 I finally got up the nerve to let a male friend of mine know how much I liked him. We were very close. He called me every night, we ate lunch together. He was not afraid to actually help me eat. In classes we had together, he would always sit with me. He had beautiful eyes, wavy brown hair and just an all around great personality. So, I decided to write him a letter and have him read it when he got home. That night I was so nervous, and barely slept. The next morning I was anxious to get to school.
I met my friend at lunch. We had some small talk. Then, here it came… the letter. My male friend told me how flattered he was. My heart began to sink as the conversation went on. I was told how nice I was, and pretty. I was thinking, “Yeah, great.” Then, it came, the sentence as a disabled woman I dreaded… “You’re very nice, and have a great personality…” I was hurt and asked for just plain honesty. Well, I got it… My disability was in the way. He did not want to have to date and take care of me too… I was crushed, but in the back of my mind I knew…
That year I just stayed in the background. I watched as prom came and went.
At the age of 18 my sister who was two years older than me, started to actually start taking me with her and her friends to weekend parties. I was absolutely thrilled. My mom would get me ready, then my sister’s boyfriend would come and pick us both up. It was a blast. My sister’s friends quickly became my friends and every weekend was filled with something to do.
During one party a guy there had caught my eye. He was well over 6 feet tall, had wavy dark blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. He actually started talking to me. My sister encouraged me even though I was really leary that my disability would get in the way. For now, I was okay just talking with him at the parties.
One evening this guy called looking for my dad. After they spoke I asked my dad for the phone back. In my nervousness, and sweating I blurted out that I liked him. Oh, I needed a rock to crawl under. But, wait… to my surprise he was thinking of me was well. Then, he asked me if I wanted to go to the movies. I of course said yes. When the conversation was over, and the phone hung up, I let out a very excited scream. My mom thought someone was killing me, I told her I had a date. That was a monumental milestone, and that meant shopping for new clothes.
That weekend my new guy came and picked me up. He was dressed so nice and smelled so nice. He got down on one knee and hugged me. From there, he took me out to his truck, and lifted me in. I was so nervous, but figured I better calm down. As he drove us to our destination, I was doing pretty good.
He took me to a beautiful park, it had this huge bridge that stemmed off in various directions. He pushed me along in my wheelchair, all the while we’re talking about me being in school and what I planned after graduation. Then, after chatting we stopped and he sat on a bench. The conversation turned more serious. He started out saying how nice he thought I was. My heart started to sink, here we go again. This time though, there was a different twist. He said I could probably do better than him. I told him no, I didn’t think so. I straight out told him if my disability could not be looked beyond, he needed to be honest. He actually said to my surprise, that he would like to try.
The drive home that first date night, we both were very honest. He was very nervous about dating someone who required physical care. I told him I was nervous as well, but we could help each other. That night, at the age of 18, I had my very first romantic kiss… My world was about to change.
Every night just about, and every weekend I was going out on dates. My new boyfriend had no trouble feeding me in public, or even taking care of my bathroom needs when we were out at parties. Everyone thought we were a great couple, well almost everyone. My boyfriend’s closest friends started making waves a few months into our relationship when they were seeing the seriousness between us. I did my best to ignore them, but sometimes it was just a bit overwhelming. Then, they started in on me, asking if I noticed my boyfriend never really took me “out in public”, just to eat and to parties. It hadn’t really bothered me. The hardest thing I heard was my boyfriend being asked how could we have kids if we got married and he was stuck taking care of me?
I tried desperately to keep my boyfriend from hearing these things, but it was taking it’s toll. My mind was turning and I knew things needing fixing if it was possible. So, I gave into something I really had fought against, having sex. One night before a party I let him have sex with me, thinking this would save everything. In all honesty, all that happened is that it opened the door for me to start feeling used when he needed something. Moreover, it kept the relationship going a little longer, but at the expense of me just starting to feel sad. I could feel my whole demeanor changing.
In my head I started thinking if it was worth giving so much of myself to just have a boyfriend? But, there was a part of me that really wanted to be loved. There was a part of me that kept thinking just maybe things would change and he would love me again. Unfortunately, it was not love that I got. Instead, I found myself wanting to love someone who was turning ugly and knew I wanted his love, and used that…
As time progressed I was getting ready for graduation, and had been picking out colleges. But, before I could allow myself to truly move on, I had to try and let go of my relationship. It had gotten to the point now that I was not only hurting emotionally, but physically. My so called boyfriend was treating me so much rougher. My mom even noticed bruises on my legs, but I explained them away. I wanted desperately for my boyfriend to just stop and come back to me like he was before. And at times there was this glimmer of his past self, and I felt loved… only to be let down and used again. The final straw would come, and I was ashamed of myself for hanging on so long.
One night at a party my boyfriend showed up. I had gone with my sister. He picked me up, and wanted to apologize to me. I was leary but listened as he explained his crude behavior toward me. I wanted to believe. That night my sister had too much to drink, so we needed to stay the night at the house we were at. My boyfriend offered to assist me, again I wanted to believe him. My gut just said, “fall asleep on the couch.” I tried, but was awakened by my boyfriend. He picked me up, carried me to the bathroom. Everyone was asleep, and for some reason I felt really nervous. I told him I didn’t need the bathroom, and I just needed to sleep. Before I could say the word “stop”, I was face down on the tile floor. That night I was assaulted by a man who I thought once loved me… My world was over. When it was over, he put me back on the couch then walked away… just walked away.
A few days later he called to tell me he never really planned on getting that serious with me… his friends were right. He made it clear I was just something to do until the right woman came along for him… Oh, he was of course sorry if I thought things were serious between us, but after all, I was disabled and that was too much in the way.
I never told anyone until years later. Unfortunately, I fit the 60% of women who do not report what happened. My mom and family just thought we broke up.
By now of course I’ve moved on… In later articles you will find out how…
My purpose for this article? Whether you are disabled or not, no one deserves to be abused. If you are being abused, there is help out there. Believe me, I know leaving an abusive relationship can be extremely difficult but it’s better than losing yourself. Most importantly, if you have or ever are sexually assaulted, seek immediate attention. Talk to a friend and have them go with you to the hospital, or police.
Statistics say that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.