Violence against women with disabilities
Research suggests that women with disabilities are more likely to experience domestic violence sexual assault, and emotional abuse than women without disabilities. Women with disabilities may also feel more isolated and feel they are unable to report the abuse, or they may be dependent on the abuser for their care. Like many women who are abused, women with disabilities are usually abused by someone they know, such as a partner or family member.
Women with Disabilities Are More Vulnerable to Domestic Violence
Research indicates that women with disabilities are more likely to suffer domestic violence and sexual assault than women without disabilities. And women with disabilities report that abuse lasts longer and is more intense than women without disabilities.
Like other women, women with disabilities usually are abused by someone they know, such as a partner or family member. In addition, women with disabilities face the risk of abuse by healthcare providers or caregivers. Caregivers can withhold medicine and assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or braces. They can also refuse to help with daily needs like bathing, dressing, or eating.
Reasons for Violence Against Women with Disabilities
Violence against women with disabilities happens because of attitudes towards women together with vulnerability from the conditions that result from the disability itself, such as:
· Being physically less capable of defending themselves
· Difficulty in reporting maltreatment due to the lack of accessible forms of communication
· Inaccessibility of information and counseling services due to barriers in the physical environment and due to the lack of accessible forms of communication (this is particularly concerning for women who are blind or visually impaired)
· Lower self-esteem due to not being seen as a woman but only as a person with a disability or even worse—only as her disability
· A greater amount of dependence on other people for care
· Fear of reporting the abuse, as it might result in the breaking of bonds and loss of the care they may require
Domestic Violence Is Never the Fault of the Victim
Domestic and sexual assault, stalking, and neglect are never the fault of the victim. They are not based on stress, drugs, or alcohol. They are due to the active choice of the abuser to use violence or other intimidating tactics to control his victim.
Victims often stay with their abuser for many reasons, including economic, cultural, and fear of losing custody of the children. Perhaps most important, victims fear increased violence or death or if they leave. In fact, the most dangerous time for a victim is when she’s trying to leave. This may be due to the abuser feeling like he is losing control over his victim. For women with disabilities, it can be even worse. If they are being abused by someone they rely on to take care of them, they may feel trapped.
Women who are blind or visually impaired have additional concerns related to their vision. As one victim noted, "I realized that my vision was being used against me...(later) I learned about my vision and how to use it more efficiently. This restored my confidence." Be sure to read her story, "Domestic Violence Has Many Faces".The National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.SAFE (7233)*1.800.787.3224 (TTY)
I met Elizabeth Page, LMSW, founder of Disabled Crime Victims Assistance, Inc.; www.devainc.org. She inspired me to write this post, she was a victim of workplace violence, and is now permanently confined to a wheelchair. She has committed her life to bringing awareness to the plight of women with disabilities who are victimized by sexual assault and domestic violence. Domestic abuse is a crime that passes on no one, anyone, male or female can be a victim of this crime.
To read more about resources and the work we do to help victims of domestic violence, visit our website, www.inamaegreene.org.
“BECAUSE THE ROAD TO SAFETY SHOULD NOT BE A DEAD-END!”
Other resources for this article: Vision Aware