2013 and the film The Sessions has brought a scurry of rather sensationalist articles focusing on one care home and exagerated reports in the Brighton Argos on the "prostitutes, vice girls" etc visiting residents, with a "red sock" on their doors so staff "know to check up regularly" ! Recent films such as the Australian “Scarlet Road” and American “Sessions” have brought this topic to light but the British TV and film industry seem reluctant to portray the work we do in Britain at all, and certainly not in a positive light, it's “Not in My Own Back Yard”.
Our Freedom of Information survey to local authories carried out in 2010 revealed that only 4% of them condoned disabled people within their care hiring sex workers. Most of them thought prostitution was itself illegal! This was reported in Community Care and then in the National Press. We received this praise
“Organisations such as The Outsiders and TLC (Tender Loving Care) do invaluable work to recognise the sexual needs of disabled people, and do what they can to help - campaigning in a pretty forthright way.” Bel Mooney in the Daily Mail 18th August 2010
On 30th January, the Sexual Health and Disability Alliance issued to following Press Release:
30 January 2013: Immediate Release
COUNCIL RISKS BREAKING LAW OVER CARE HOME FURORE
East Sussex County Council risks breaching the law if it bows to lurid press coverage and frustrates the sexual rights of disabled people under its care, leading sexual health campaigners have warned.
The warning comes amid local and national newspaper coverage concerning the use of sex workers at the Chaseley Trust, a residential home for disabled adults.
Following the allegations, East Sussex CC has announced a multi-agency team would investigate the reports ‘to protect the safety of vulnerable people’ and examine any concerns.
In response, Dr Tuppy Owens, founder of the Sexual Health and Disability Alliance (SHADA) said: ‘East Sussex County Council will be breaking the law if they forbid the Chaseley Trust to allow their residents — ordinary citizens who have become seriously impaired — to enjoy the same freedom as other citizens to order and employ the services of sex workers.
‘The buying and selling of sex is, and always has been legal in the UK. It is against the law for care staff to deny residents the same opportunities as other people enjoy.
‘It is unfortunate that the council seems to regard all people with disabilities as vulnerable and lacking the same sexual needs and drives as able-bodies peers.'
Claire de Than, Senior Lecturer in Law at City University commented: ‘Everyone has the right to consensual non-harmful sexual activity in private, as part of sexual autonomy and respect for private lives.
‘It is a fundamental right and basic human need. Some people with disabilities may need to be supported or helped in exercising their rights and meeting their needs, in this context as in others. There are perfectly legal ways in which people who need assistance in finding sexual expression may be supported, whether they live in care homes or not.
‘Of course vulnerable people need to be protected, but not all people with disabilities are vulnerable and anyone who has the capacity to make choices about their own sexual expression should be allowed and supported to do so.
‘Care providers have a duty to uphold and enable the rights of people with disabilities. Sensationalising or misrepresenting practical support given in this context is an affront to human dignity and autonomy.
‘It is to be hoped that the council will take legal advice not only on the relevant criminal law and discrimination law but also on the rights to sexual autonomy and sexual expression.'
~ Ends ~
~ Notes to editors ~
Dr Tuppy Owens, TLC Trust
Dr Tuppy Owens has been pioneering for the sexual rights of disabled people for 34 years. She was the founder of Prostitution Pride, the Sex Workers' Show'n'Tell and Outsiders, a club for disabled people to find partners. More recently, she set up the Sexual Health and Disability Alliance, SHADA, and the TLC for Disabled Men and Women to access Responsible Sex Workers. She was named one of the Family Planning Association's 80 most influential achievers in the field of Family Planning.
Claire de Than, Senior Lecturer in Law at City University
Claire de Than, Senior Lecturer in Law at City University London, is an academic lawyer who has published many books and articles on human rights and criminal law. She advises a range of charities, campaigners, healthcare professionals and governments about human rights issues and law reform, including the law on consent, capacity and sexual expression.
SHADA was started by Outsiders in 2005 to bring together telephone helpline operators and professionals who are concerned with the stigma surrounding the sexual happiness of disabled people. There are now over a hundred members who meet in London twice a year to share their experiences and learn.
SHADA ran a conference with the Royal Society of Medicine on 13th November 2009 called Disability: Sex, Relationships and Pleasure. This was a great success and reported in two pages in The Times.
SHADA has produced policy guidelines for GPs, surgeons, therapists, residential homes, colleges disability agencies, and for those wishing to use sex workers in their care plans and work.
The group’s reputation is spreading world-wide and SHADA now has its own website: www.shada.org.uk
For more information please contact SHADA press officer Jonathan Werran
on 07967 100 328 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to press coverage