In this conversation with Dr. Margaret Newbury Jones, here out referred to as Margaret, of SHADE Consulting and Counselling we dive into the topic of sexuality and disability. We discuss what self-advocates, families, and supporters need to know about sexuality and Intellectual/developmental disability (IDD). She answers the questions; Why is knowing the language of our bodies so important? Where do I go to find a partner?, What is the role of a paid supporter, and Should we be allowed to have sex and watch porn in the group home?.
Margaret’s career has focused on working with folks of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and other disabilities for 25+ years. She worked as a public-school special educator for 15 years before beginning to work as a consultant and counsellor focusing on trauma, sexual health and folks with IDD. She works directly with clients with IDD as well as their families and supporters and is known for providing engaging workshops for families, self-advocates, front line workers, and other professionals. She is most importantly a family member of a sibling with IDD, her best teacher.
Why is it so important for us to talk about sexuality for people with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD)?
Margaret: “Everyone is a sexual being; it doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not.”
Eric: Other than sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy, general health are there other reasons we need to be talking about sexuality for people that have an IDD?
Paraphrasing from the podcast, Margaret shares; “Safety. People with IDDs are much more vulnerable to being abused and taken advantage of. Also, a lot of it is about autonomy and making informed decisions and not feeling like someone else gets to make those choices for you. We don’t have to allow others to make those decisions, that is a person’s right [to make those decisions] when they are an adult.
In terms of statistics, now big of a problem is sexual abuse?
Paraphrasing from the podcast, Margaret shares, “There aren’t any good solid stats – the research you referenced is from the 80s and 90s. [Eric referenced stat – 83% of women, 35% of men with IDD are sexually abused] The stats can vary from 2 percent to 60 percent. But what we do know, is that rates of sexual abuse for people with IDDs higher than the general population. Also, just like the general population, people with IDDs don’t report, don’t know how to report, [or don’t have the language to know they were sexually abused as we discuss below].”
What do self-advocates need to know about sexual health?
Paraphrasing from the podcast, Margaret shares: “Language – if folks don’t have the right language to tell us that something happened, how can they tell us? If you don’t know the language of your body, how can you tell somebody when something goes wrong?”
Margaret shares a story sex educator Meg Hickling’shttps://www.amazon.ca/Books-Meg-Hickling/s?rh=n%3A916520%2Cp_27%3AMeg+Hickling work where Meg was going into prisons and working with inmates and teaching them sexual health. When she had the opportunity, she spoke to sex offenders and asked them how they looked for their victims. The sex offenders told her that they look for people that don’t have the right language for their bodies. They said to her that if they do have the right language, they are more likely to tell. If they don’t have the language, they are less likely to tell because they aren’t having those conversations.
We also go deeper into the topic of consent on the podcast.
Margaret also shares that it is important that people that have an IDD know the basics of sexuality, sexual health, healthy relationships. On the podcast, she answers one of the most common questions she is asked by her clients with an IDD, “Where do you meet or find a partner?”