Today's entry is not inspirational. There are no updates of what has been going on in my life. Today is strictly informative of the dark side of having a disability. I have many different people who read my blog. There are my friends who are learning about spinal cord injury (SCI) since my accident; there are strangers who have no idea what all a spinal cord injury entails; and there are girls who also have SCI, who can read these posts and relate, hopefully feeling inspired and motivated. This is an educational post about the “dark underbelly” of living with a disability. These are the things they do not tell you or warn you about it in the hospital or rehab; you are left on your own to figure it out as you go. I may be young, and perhaps sometimes a little naïve, but I'm not stupid. If anything, I am too trustworthy for my own good. Before having a disability, I never thought twice about what hardships you really do face. And I am not talking about the wheelchair, adapting to your new lifestyle, learning to compensate for what you don't have. This goes much further than that. It even goes beyond the looks from ignorant people; the snickers from uneducated people; and the terrors of finding van accessible parking. Today's entry is about the predators that lurk behind the computer screen.
We all know that there are sick people in the world. All you have to do is turn on TV set to see the crazy, malicious, coldhearted people that seem like your everyday normal Joe. Today, I devote my blog to a section of these people who are labeled “devotees, pretenders and wannabes.” First, let me begin by defining what exactly these people are:
1. Devotees – These individuals have an intense attraction for disability.
2. Pretenders – These persons have a sexualized fascination with mirroring aspects of disability and its appearance (they may pretend to be disabled themselves).
3. Wannabes – These people have a strong desire to reproduce the sensations, even to the point that they’re willing to inflict self-harm to acquire the disability.
Before starting my Rehab for Katy Facebook page, I had no idea any of this stuff existed. Facebook has been great in so many ways. Not only have I gained exposure and hosted fundraisers, but I've made several new girl friends with SCI who I can relate to, whereas before, I had none. I began getting tons of friend requests; I would look at their page and see activities such as paraplegic, quadriplegic, wheelchair related activities, and figured “hey, a new friend I can relate to.” Little did I know what I was really getting myself into. I soon began to receive messages from the “devotees”… Most of you are aware I also have a YouTube channel; this is where many of them subscribed to and tried to contact me. At first, I thought it was harmless. Creepy- but harmless. Then the horror stories really came out. I learned of other disabled girls whose online stalker turned into real-life stalkers. Then it was also brought to my attention that these devotees would steal your photos to post on their fetish websites. They don't care if you're not wearing a sexy outfit. They want to see things like you transferring yourself; the way you adapt things; even just a photo of your paralyzed feet. I do not pretend to understand the psyche of these people, because I cannot fathom such disturbing thoughts. The following is a list of possible explanations of where a disability fetish comes from:
- A lack of success with able-bodied individuals, which makes people with disabilities safer targets of affection.
- The desire for a unique partner who garners attention from onlookers.
- Sadistic tendencies, where the individual loves having power over one of perceived lower status.
- Masochistic tendencies, where one gets satisfaction via feelings of self-degeneration that are associated with having a partner who is stigmatized.
- The imprint of early childhood experiences involving strong emotions for a people with disabilities. (Parental approval for any admiration can further reinforce such.)
- The need to feel like a hero in “saving” a people with disabilities.
But honestly, what disturbs me more than devotees are the pretenders and the wannabes. It is widely thought that these people suffer from Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) which is a neurological and psychological disorder that makes sufferers feel they would be happier living with a disability. The same way some people have Gender Identity Disorder. A lot of devotees will pose as pretenders in order to get close to the woman with disabilities. This can be done in the privacy of their own home or even out in public. They will steal photos of disabled women and create fake profiles to appeal to more vulnerable women. Sometimes they will just look at your photos for their own sexual fantasies; sometimes there will steal your photos to sell to devotees or to post on fetish websites; sometimes they even go as far as befriending you, stalking you. Basically, you become their obsession. If you think you're talking to a young woman with a similar injury, you're more likely to divulge personal information about your injury and the complications from it- this is what they get off on. I have met many girls who were fooled by pretenders and it became extremely dangerous, starting online and turning physical, a stalking nightmare where many of these girls had to relocate.
Then we take it one step further, the wannabes. These are people who not only pretend to be disabled; they take it a step further to make it to where they become disabled. I promise you, I cannot make this stuff up. The following is an actual quote from somebody on Facebook:
"I have no amputations, i adore women getting ready to have one though especially when its voluntary, i do like wannabes :) ,i have hoped to meet a woman who wants her feet/leg gone so that i may be able to have the feet after they are removed, i love ankles stumps too as well as below knee..."
Each time I read it, I am more disgusted. To think there are actually people who cause themself be disabled. It is a serious disorder and is not to be taken lightly. For girls like me, people like this are true predators. I find myself very fortunate to discover this ugly truth about the “dark side” being so relatively new in my injury. Finally, there is one last group of people. These are what we call “Troll Feeders.” These are women who are actually disabled, whether it be amputees or wheelchair-bound. These are women who will sell their photos and videos to the devotees or fetish websites. I cannot imagine why, maybe they have the mind frame “well, if you can't beat them- join them!” And some of these women are considered famous in the disabled community for their achievements, whether they are wheelchair model/spokesperson, a famous blogger, or even a former Ms. Wheelchair America (yes, we may be disabled but we do still have pageants.) These are women who are supposed to be role models to newly injured girls such as myself. Instead, they sell themselves out and try to convince other girls to do the same. Even if they are not vocal and trying to convince you, if you indeed “friend” one of these women on Facebook, they then have access to your photos and information to sell to devotees and fetish websites. This goes for everybody, not only handicapped people, but practice online safety. Do not put extremely personal information (address, phone number, etc.) for everyone to see. Really make sure you know who you are communicating with. You never know who may be lurking behind the computer screen.