Violence and Abuse
Abuse of Women with Disabilities
Women with disabilities are at higher risk for violence and abuse. The abuse is often more intense, longer lasting, and perpetrated by a greater number of abusers. If help with daily care is needed, a woman may be physically dependent on her abuser. Assistants and relatives may withold medication or refuse access to mobility aids until money, sex, or other favors are given.
The stereotypes of women with disabilities may increase vulnerability to sexual assault. Women with developmental disabilities are often stereotyped as innocent and childlike or as hypersexual. In either case, complaints of sexual assault may not be taken seriously.
Communication barriers, including hearing or speech impairments, may make reporting an assault more difficult. Fear of nursing homes or women’s shelters not set up to accommodate disabilities may also discourage reporting. Finding appropriate help and alternative living arrangements can be exceedingly difficult.
There has been progress. The historic 1994 Violence Against Women Act was amended in 2000 to include language addressing the needs of women with disabilities, including providing funding for expanded protection, services, and education. Increasingly, the domestic violence service community is addressing the needs of clients with disabilities. Constructing barrier-free shelters, renovating existing shelters to be fully accessible to all abused women and children, and having the option to house or provide caretakers are important parts of the effort to respond comprehensively to violence against women.
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Written by: OBOS contributors
Last revised: January 2014
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