A report issued by Women’s Aid showed that disabled women are twice as likely to experience gender-based violence than non-disabled women.
Spokeswoman, Emily Yates for Enhance the UK- a charity aimed to educate people about disability- called the current findings an ‘epidemic’.
“The fact that disabled women are twice as likely to be sexually abused is mad and insane,” she said.
Ms. Yates, a wheelchair user due to her Cerebral palsy said she has “never been subject to abuse directly”, but encountered a number of people approaching her with disabled fetishes.
Devoteeism is the sexual interest in the appearance, sensation and experience of disability.
Ms. Yates has recently completed a documentary on devoteeism for the BBC. She said she was compelled to explore the concept after someone commented on her in a wheelchair.
“He captioned it with ‘pretty cripple’,” she said. The comment left her feeling “hurt” and “saddened”.
Her documentary for the BBC titled ‘Meet the devotees: the people turned on by disability’ aired in March 2016 and explored the underground world of disability fetishes.
One devotee whom Emily meets observes that her legs are “very nice and sexy”.
The documentary exposes the dark psychosis behind disability fetishes. Ms. Yates said she felt very uncomfortable when interviewing some devotees.
“It was about vulnerability and power,” she said.
Disabled director, Emily Rowlands has also been approached by people ‘turned on’ by her disability.
Ms. Rowlands said it was her “very thin ankles” that attracted devotees.
Ms. Rowlands suffers from dyspraxia and a clubfoot. Her clubfoot was corrected at birth, but left her with very thin and outturned ankles. A failed operation means standing for long periods of time is excessively painful.
“I have been approached and contacted for ‘weird things,’” Ms. Rowlands said.
In 2012-13 Public Health England reported that over one in 10 disabled women experienced abuse.
Ms. Yates said she doesn’t know whether devoteeism directly “enhances the statistics of sexual assault amongst disabled women”, but it certainly is “something to consider”. Especially, she noted, in cases where disabled women were in vulnerable and financially draining circumstances.
“I am very lucky about the opportunities I have been given,” Ms. Yates said. “For vulnerable disabled women it is a lot harder, and that really needs to change.”