Over the past few years, I’ve been involved in the development of my local vulnerable adults protection strategy, representing the service users’ perspective. Since the publication of the government paper No Secrets, the abuse of vulnerable adults should have become easier to prevent, detect or disclose. Throughout this process, I have been uncomfortably aware that I have been, in some ways, one of the people who might need the protection of the system.
Well, it’s finally happened. I have become a victim of abuse. To my horror I discovered this week that one of my many former carers has stolen large amounts of my money. Obviously, for legal reasons, I can’t go into details at the moment, but I can tell you how it feels.
At first I was angry. I need to be able to trust my carers with my physical well-being and my possessions: essentially, with my life. This trust is part of the implicit compact between the disabled and those who help care for them, and an abuse of that trust is a tangible insult, and as shocking as a slap in the face.
And shock was my next reaction. As a tetraplegic, I have less control over my body than most people, so the increased muscular tension, spasticity and sleeplessness were all both predictable and uncontrollable.
After that, I became fearful. What about all the money I had lost? Had the person copied my keys, and if they had, would they try to gain entry, to steal from me again?
I began to resent how this person’s actions had affected the way I was feeling, and how much disruption this was causing to my life.
I have been burgled, and, like many people, felt the sense of violation that this can bring, but this violation of trust has felt deeper and more acute.
Now that I’ve started to take action, by informing the police, my bank and various other authorities, to try and ensure that other people aren’t being abused as well, I’m beginning to feel in control again, and my desire for revenge has become a desire for justice. Watch this space.