I was about to do a consultation with the participants who receive services from Hope House. We were there to talk about the new policies on sexuality and wanted input from those who they would affect most. One of the women who came was a young woman with Down Syndrome. She sat down, looked at me, and said, "I was abused. I want to learn to protect myself." She set her goal clearly and she defined the parameters of the discussion. The goal of all policy is that people be safe.
Later when we played a 'relationship game' she got the question, "Your boyfriend tells you that you can't have any friends but him, what would you do?" Her answer was swift, "I'd dump him. There's more where he came from." I laughed because there couldn't have been a better answer. Then she talked about her 'conditions of respect' for her boyfriends. There was a long list, as she gave them others joined in and the list was good: respect my boundaries, I decide if I want to have sex not you, don't steal from me, don't swear at me, don't lie to me, don't cheat on me, tell me that you love me."
She sat back, proud of the fact that she knows what she wants from a relationship. I was immensely impressed. I don't know who taught her the 'conditions of respect', I don't know if it comes from a curriculum, but I loved the idea.
I love the idea that all people, not just those with disabilities, have a right to set conditions of respect. I love the fact that she taught me something new that set my mind racing well into the night.
I think the idea is bigger than sex, bigger than relationships ... but should be a fundamental of sex and relationship education.
This is why I do consultation with people with disabilities - it's like a crash course in 'real life'.
Congratulations to those who parented her, those who taught her.