Posted on January 25, 2016
My work is about creating systemic change in schools and organizations that support people with disabilities. For me, this means creating official abuse prevention policies, challenging ableism, and building an organizational culture that welcomes and supports challenging conversations about the messages our actions give children with disabilities about their bodies. If we want change to be real and sustainable, it must nurture the leadership and self-advocacy of people with disabilities and also resonate with the people who are educating and supporting them. I believe in creating models that not only avoid bad outcomes, but affirm the choices, bodily integrity, self-advocacy and healthy sexuality of people with disabilities.
The Challenge: Children with disabilities are three times as likely as those without disabilities to experience sexual abuse. Rates are even higher for those with intellectual disabilities. Despite this fact, ableism is present in the movement to end child sexual abuse, which has not centered the specialized needs of this community.
The Solution: End the sexual abuse of children with disabilities by challenging ableism and ensuring that activism to end child sexual abuse fully includes and reflects the experiences of children with disabilities.
The Strategy: IMPACT will organize teachers and administrators at SEEM Collaborative, a disability-specific school system, to prevent the sexual abuse of children and teens with disabilities. The project will identify ways that disability-specific schools and youth-serving organizations can challenge ableism, teach people with disabilities that they have a choice about their bodies, create a culture that inhibits perpetration, and provide consistent and effective responses when children report abuse. We also aim to use this work within a disability-specific school to identify ways in which the movement to end child sexual abuse as a whole can become more conscious of ableism and inclusive of children with disabilities. Taking up this work with a vision for long term sustainability—not at a time of crisis or reaction to an incident of perpetration—allows IMPACT to identify and change the social norms and official policies that will result in the most progress toward ending child sexual abuse.
A key priority of this work will be to create clear definitions of safe and appropriate touch that account for the ways in which multi-sensory education and therapy are important for students with disabilities. We will equip educators and administrators to identify and challenge unsafe and potentially abusive behaviors, without creating a culture of fear and suspicion among educators. As we create systemic change, IMPACT also will help children and teens learn about their bodies and advocate for themselves when they are being touched in ways they do not like. This includes teaching adults who provide personal care and individualized therapies to become more responsive to students’ self-advocacy and more comfortable with conversations about safe and healthy touch.
Meg Stone is the Executive Director of IMPACT, an abuse prevention and safety training organization that is embedded within the disability service agency Triangle. She also serves as the Project Director of IMPACT:Ability, an abuse prevention program focused on people with disabilities that was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In this capacity, she leads the organizational abuse prevention efforts of Triangle and three other Boston-area disability service and advocacy organizations.
Meg is a member of the Massachusetts State Sexual Violence Prevention Team and the chair of the Team’s Developmental Disabilities subcommittee. She has presented about abuse prevention in disability communities and self-defense training at local and national conferences including the National Sexual Assault Conference, the National Adult Protective Services Association Conference, and the Massachusetts Citizens for Children Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Summit. She also co-led a national webinar on preventing sexual abuse of children with disabilities sponsored by PreventConnect and the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Meg has led IMPACT since 2005 and in that time she has led the development of abuse prevention and safety training programs for schools, homeless shelters, rape crisis centers, disability service agencies and domestic violence organizations. Meg’s writing on issues of child sexual abuse, sexual violence and safety training have been published in the Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, Cognoscenti and several Boston-area regional newspapers. Her writing about marriage equality and LGBTQ experiences of cancer have been published in Cognoscenti and the anthology Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships and Identity. Meg has over 20 years experience in domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy.
IMPACT is a Boston-area abuse prevention and safety training organization that is embedded within Triangle, Inc. a disability service agency that empowers people with disabilities to live fulfilling, safe and financially stable lives. IMPACT’s mission is to prevent violence and abuse by giving people with and without disabilities the tools to protect their safety and advocate for healthy relationships and sexual respect in their communities and society.