We all have rights, but it can be hard to stand up for them if we don’t know what they are. Do we have the right to information about sex? Do people have to ask before they touch us? Do doctors have to keep our conversations with them private? Do two people have the right to date if they both say yes but a family member or staff disagrees with their decision? Do people have the right to have children if they want them? Can someone tell us we’re not allowed to be gay? What if someone wants to date us but we’re not sure how we feel about them? Who can we ask about this stuff? Join the conversation!
Family members, friends, and staff all have a role to play in providing sexual health support for people with cognitive disabilities. How we show up for people can make things easier for them, or much harder.
In a 2017, a research team in the UK interviewed people with cognitive disabilities about their experience with romantic relationships, dating, marriage etc. Every single person interviewed who was in a romantic relationship of some sort could point to specific ways their support network had helped them find and / or maintain that relationship. Likewise, people interviewed who were frustrated at not finding a relationship often pointed to ways in which people in their support network had stood in their way.
As well, studies around the world show that people with cognitive disabilities are at increased risk of experiencing sexual abuse. Having a person or people in their lives with whom they can have frank conversations about sexual health topics is a key factor in reducing their risk of abuse.
While it may not be easy or comfortable to engage with folks we support around these topics, the benefits can be profound. And the good news is, we don’t have to be perfect at this – or even feel confident at this – to make a big difference. Join the conversation!