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Voices from Inside the Studio: Freedom from Abuse and Neglect

We’re coming to the end of our monthly rights review, where
we discuss our rights, responsibilities, and how we can exercise them to
protect each other and ourselves.  This
month, we discussed abuse and neglect.

Abuse is a sensitive and difficult subject for anyone; to
protect the privacy and wellbeing of our artists, we did not give personal
interviews for this article.  Instead we
will focus on how issues of abuse and neglect impact us, and what we as a
community do to help prevent it from happening.

Abuse and neglect has a harrowing presence in the disability
world; a person has a much higher likelihood of being the victim of abuse and
neglect if they have an intellectual or developmental disability.  According to The Arc, “people with cognitive
disabilities (or intellectual disabilities) [experience] the highest risk of
violent victimization… Any type of disability appears to contribute to a higher
risk of victimization, but intellectual disabilities, communication disorders,
and behavioral disorders appear to contribute to very high levels of risk”.

Because abuse and neglect is far too common, it is
imperative that people with disabilities of any kind feel empowered to act when
they see or experience any type of abuse, and we as a community have a
responsibility to give them the tools they need to successfully recognize and
report abuse, as well as know, understand, and investigate warning signs that
may indicate someone being in a bad situation.

How do we do this at Arts of Life?

Chicago artists smile with a volunteer at an art opening at Circle Contemporary

This week at our weekly lunchtime rights discussion, we went
over examples of abusive and neglectful behavior:

People do not have the
right to say or do bad things to you or keep you from eating.  Staff persons cannot hit you or do things
that might hurt you.  People do not have
the right to yell at you, scare you, or call you names.  People do not have the right to touch you or
force you to touch them.

Afterwards, we practiced knowing what to do when we find
ourselves or someone else in a situation that is causing harm.  At the Chicago studio, our mantra for this

If a staff member, family member, or anyone else is doing
any of the above: TELL SOMEONE!

What if they say “don’t tell anyone this happened” ?  TELL SOMEONE!

What if it’s a friend, or someone we trusted?  TELL SOMEONE!

What if it just doesn’t seem like a big deal ? TELL SOMEONE!

We want our artists to feel like they can speak up for
themselves and for each other, even when it is hard, or someone is trying to
stop them from doing so.  We hope that by
practicing speaking up for ourselves, we can do our part to make the world a
little safer and happier for everyone.