My Bag


My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

It Happens To Us, Too: Sexually Harassed While Disabled

I’ve liked boys for as long as I can remember. Each school year, I’d express my crush on a boy in my class. In the beginning, the boy of interest would reciprocate the feelings – I remember one of my elementary school loves told me he’d buy me a diamond ring one day.

But everything started to change after we began to have the gender-divided health classes in sixth grade. The girls would go into a separate classroom with the school nurse while the boys stayed in the classroom with the physical education instructor. Both groups learned about the female and male reproductive systems. However, there was an unspoken insurgence of embarrassment among the girls, and we kept our heads down as we walked back into the classroom. The boys sheepishly smirked as we passed by their desks.

It was around this time that I stopped receiving attention from boys. It was as if my physical disability somehow became a scarlet letter overnight. They began to equate my disability to asexuality, unable to have sex, and therefore I was no longer attractive to them. This left me feeling inadequate and improper as a young woman.

All this was ever-so confusing to the feeble mind of a pre-teen girl. Adding to that confusion, I was sexually abused for the first time at this age and would not realize what had happened to me until years later. It was as if the tradeoff of losing my attractiveness in the eyes of my peers was being seen as “easy” and vulnerable to other men.

I have a relatively mild case of cerebral palsy, which affects my mobility and speech. Growing up and through grad school, I used a wheelchair to get around. But now, in my mid-20s, I am proud to say that I walk all around New York City on my own two feet. My speech is sometimes hard for strangers to understand at first, but I try my best to make the listener’s job as easy as possible. 

My disability never made me lose agency over my body, but this experience made me forgo control over my sexuality from too young of an age. I was either just an easy target or still attractive to some guys despite my disability because I continued going through a conveyor belt of relationships with men, often the guy suggesting it be kept in secret.

Sex and disability are individually difficult topics and often considered as two taboos. Those concepts combined, it is almost an impossible thing to talk about in a mainstream setting.

Often, the “disabled community” is characterised as a whole, despite there being a broad spectrum of abilities and disabilities.

It was not until my sophomore year of college that I found the language and perception to realize what had happened to me as a child. My campus, Columbia University, was one of the first ones to uncover its toxic rape and sexual harassment culture. Notably, Emma Sulkowicsz’s “Carry That Weight” performance gained national attention –- as her visual arts capstone project, she carried the mattress where her assault had occurred until the school administrators took disciplinary actions against the alleged assailant. (The court later found discrepancies in Sulkowicsz’s allegations.)

 Soon after, other students came forward to share their own stories. During that year, variations of “sexual assault,” “sexual violence,” “sexual abuse,” and “rape” were pasted all over campus. I was relieved, in a sense, that I finally put a name to what had happened to me. However, I felt paralyzed by my emotions and trauma more than I ever had before. Although I deeply admired the strength and courage of each person who shared their tragic stories, I felt like I didn’t have the platform or space to do the same.

The administrators have become stricter with implementing a gender-based misconduct education requirement for all students and bystander intervention training for campus leaders. Rather than the University taking responsibility, they had, instead, put the burden on the student leaders. I felt suffocated having to go through all of these workshops and training about how to help a peer when s/he informs me that s/he has been a victim of sexual violence when I couldn’t even help myself. I felt like I was helping other people put on their oxygen masks before putting on my own, which is the exact opposite of what the flight attendants tell you to do on airplanes.

 I was also a victim of internalized ableism. I grew up with the message that as a disabled woman, I am not considered sexy or attractive in the public eye. So, for me to be receiving some unwanted attention from men, something must be inherently wrong with me. Perhaps I wear too-revealing clothes for a disabled woman, or maybe I’m not disabled enough? I could not grasp the possibility of being sexually attractive AND disabled since the messages I grew up with told me otherwise.

 This unease of feeling blew out of proportion two years later in 2017. The year marked the beginning of an influx of sexual violence allegations in the media coupled with social media activism. But one group continues to be largely omitted from the conversation, unsurprisingly: people with disabilities —- our voices remain unheard in discussions of sexual and domestic violence.

Once again, I felt invisible and invalidated.

It was then that I stumbled upon a troubling statistic. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization that uses research to improve institutional systems, people with physical disabilities are up to four times more likely to experience sexual violence than are their nondisabled counterparts. The Vera Institute collaborated with the U.S. Department of Justice and Office on Violence Against Women to conduct this study.

In early 2018, NPR released a series the looked into the hidden epidemic of sexual abuse against people with intellectual disabilities, who are consider the most vulnerable within the disability community. Reporters found even more startling data within the Bureau of Justice Statistics  — this population is up to seven times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than are people without disabiliities. Perpetrators see them as “easy targets” since they’ve been conditioned to get along with others, have limited speech and comprehension abilities, and, most likely, they rely on the abuser for caretaking.

Although for women with physical disabilities, the statistic is slightly lower — they are four times more likely, rather than seven — the power dynamics between them and the perpetrator are still significant, sometimes debilitating to the victim. The abuser can create a physical barrier to prevent them from reporting, such as withholding access to the phone and their mobility and hearing aids. 

 On the one hand, I took comfort in the fact that I am not alone. But on the other hand, I grew angrier at the fact that society and culture completely ignore those narratives of disabled women when it comes to issues relating to sexuality or sex. The lack of representation for the disability community in mainstream sexual violence and harassment advocacy isolates us and our stories.

 Even at a time when we’ve become more accepting of diversity – in terms of race, body type, gender/sexual orientation, mental illness, and socioeconomic status – disability inclusion continues to lag significantly behind.

It took hitting rock bottom before I could rise up to be stronger and develop respect for my own sexuality.

 In the midst of all the sexual assault activism and protests on campus, I kept engaging in destructive sexual activities — hooking up with random guys I’d match with on dating apps or met at clubs — in order to self medicate. I’d try to convince myself that if I had as much consensual sex as I could, then maybe I could “get over” the trauma I had experienced as a child.

I finally mustered up the strength and courage to tell my family and friends about the abuse after my first few sessions seeing a therapist. What I once thought was impossible was unraveling in front of my eyes. I didn’t receive judgement or disgust from my loved ones. Instead, they encompassed me with overflowing love and support as well as communion.

During the same time, I met the first guy I ever felt comfortable and safe with. He has shown me what it feels like to be loved and to be handled with delicacy and care. Although over the course of four years, the romantic connection between us has faded, I am so fortunate to still call him my best friend. He has given me so much more than I can ever reciprocate: it is through his unconditional care and utmost respect for me that I realized that I am worthy and deserving of true love and safe, fulfilling sexual gratification.

Despite my past, I am in a place today where I can allow myself to be loved and to love. I’m still in the process of unlearning some treacherous beliefs that had been engraved onto my brain. It was not my fault, and I, myself, don’t need to carry that weight all by myself anymore. It’s still very much a work in process, but I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can share my own story, along with the stories of others.

Their stories deserve to be told, and I will continue using my growing platform to amplify their voices. 


  • Sarah Kim is a freelance writer and journalist based in Brooklyn, NYC. In 2018, she earned her master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. During her studies, she devoted her masters thesis to uncovering the failures of the healthcare and justice system when it comes to sexual abuse surviors with disabilities. Sarah largely writes about diversity and inclusion in the realm of disabilities, race, and gender. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Teen Vogue, The Daily Beast, The Mighty, Columbia Journalism Review, Huffington Post, and others. Sarah is currently writing a young adults novel that is semi-based on her life.

    Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Sarah Kim

  • Tanya Shyika is an illustrator and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work projects positivity and meaning, with attention to detail and passion for color. She specializes in editorial and product illustration, packaging design, illustrated maps, and book covers. Among other projects, she is also working on a platform for teen girls to find inspiration and advice from successful professional women, called Futurista. Originally from Ukraine, she studied illustration at Berlin University of Arts (UdK) and Pratt Institute and has a background in printmaking.

    Photo Credit: Paul Jun