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Crippen asks Bob Williams-Findlay to share his experiences with the former Spastics Society / 2 November 2009

Following on from Bob Williams-Findlay’s comment last week about his experiences with the Spastics Society (now Scope), I invited him to write something for this week’s blog.

“It is very difficult to explain my mixed emotions regarding the Spastics Society, now renamed Scope. In many ways I feel I achieved what I did despite being subjected to psychological abuse whilst in one of their segregated schools.

There is little doubt that, up to the last two years at the Society-run Thomas Delarue School, my formal education was of a high standard and I obtained a range of ‘O’ levels. However the impact of activities outside the classroom was to have a massive affect both on my ‘A’ level studies and the rest of my life.

I’ve never been an Angel, but I doubt I was that much different to most 16-17 year olds. I became interested in my own sexuality, and attracted to a young girl at the school. This was viewed as a threat to the establishment, and my refusal to stop the relationship had dire consequences. The first sign of trouble was when I had my collection of poetry seized. I was banned from writing ‘pornographic filth’ and could only have my work returned at the end of term when I had to take it home. The offending line was: “I want to run naked through the long grass/ Feel the warmth of the sun on my skin…”

I was deeply unhappy about the many injustices that occurred at the school and this affected by studies. I failed my A levels and left school and went to another Spastics Society-run institution where I floundered for another year. At this time two important events took place; my father died, and I got engaged.

When I got engaged, the Spastics Society sent a social worker to talk to me about why I had done this. Unknown to me at the time, after our meeting the Social worker asked my mother if she knew what I had done and wasn’t she worried that I was probably an “over-sexed young man”.

Now, how one works out that somebody’s over-sexed from an hour meeting is beyond me but really that isn’t the agenda is it? The agenda is that at that time – we were talking about the early Seventies – disabled people were supposed to be asexual and incapable of intercourse.

My treatment wasn’t a one-off; others have revealed similar tales; including physical and sexual abuse. At no time have I been approached by Scope about what went on at Delarue, nor have I seen them take ownership of their ‘discriminatory history’, so forgive me if I don’t take their stance on disablism too seriously.”


Keywords: charities,disabled people's movement,young disabled people,