“Disabled people are forgotten” – Ellen Keane speaks out as Allianz launch Domestic Abuse campaign

Allianz and Women’s Aid have joined forces to raise €2.4 million over the next three years to support the work of Women’s Aid.

As a woman, an athlete, and a disabled person, Paralympic champion Ellen Keane was quick to throw her voice behind the campaign, highlighting the need to understand how prevalent the issue of domestic abuse is in Ireland.

“Allianz are coming together with Women’s Aid to start an annual fundraising campaign which will be on the new Bank Holiday in February,” Keane told Pundit Arena. “Their aim is to raise 2.4 million over the next three years to help Women’s Aid fight and combat domestic abuse which is a big issue in Ireland.

“It affects one in four women in Ireland but it also affects one in two disabled women in Ireland which is a really scary stat.

“As an athlete, I’m perceived as a strong woman and we always want women who find themselves in domestic abuse cases to see themselves as strong so as an athlete I wanted to get behind the movement because it could happen to any of us. To have a range of women behind the campaign shows women that they are not alone.”

The fact that people with disabilities are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse as able-bodied people makes for a horrific stat but for the Dublin native, it is a reality that she can sadly understand given the vulnerable situation disabled people often find themselves in.

“It made me really sad because I can understand it. I can understand how easily it happens. When you are a disabled person you are that little bit more vulnerable and the more disabled you are, the more you have to rely on a carer or another person. You really have to trust somebody. And for that trust to be abused and taken advantage of, is something really scary.

“The one in two stat is probably also because disabled people are forgotten. It’s so easy to undermine a disabled person and not listen to them so to come onboard and be that disabled figure for the campaign is really important.”

Vulnerability is always an uncomfortable feeling but for people with disabilities, that discomfort is magnified. We may think we are doing the polite thing by offering help when we feel they need it but Keane explains that this only adds to the problem.

“I’ve always not wanted to show my vulnerability as a disabled person. I’m quite stubborn about people helping me, I’ll always refuse help. I might spill something or hurt myself because I’m so adamant that no one’s going to help me. It might be easier if someone does help me but I think it’s an internal thing that I have to prove to myself that I can do something.

“Some things are easier to get help with but I will always try. It’s a thing about disabled people. We don’t always need help. Sometimes when you offer the help, it takes away our opportunity to grow.

“I remember as a kid my Mom would always do my hair for school and I would have tantrums because I would be like ‘I want to learn!’.

“People who really need help will ask for it but when they’re offered it again and again it can be quite frustrating and it’s very undermining. As an athlete, I am quite strong and so when something thinks I can’t do something, it really pisses me off. It gives me internalised satisfaction.

“When a disabled person asks for help, it does mean we need it. It takes a lot for us to ask for help. I don’t know any disabled person who will just ask for help because they are lazy or unwilling to do it for themselves.”

On the new February bank holiday, falling on the 6th this year, everyone in Ireland is invited to show solidarity by donating on the #StandStrong platform and doing the Warrior Pose. The yoga pose is a non-confrontational symbol of focus, confidence and courage and an inclusive and strong way for everyone to show their support for women subjected to domestic abuse.

The #StandStrong movement aims to become a new annual key date in Ireland’s cultural calendar, wanting to engage, educate and empower people to combat domestic abuse, remove stigma surrounding it and drive for zero tolerance, while raising much-needed funds for Women’s Aid.

To donate and for more information on how to get involved visit https://www.standstrong.ie/

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.