Domestic Violence and Specific Populations: People with Disabilities
The nature of abuse does not change much for an abused woman with a disability. What is different is that the abuser may use the disability as a way to control her. Also, some women with disabilities who are abused may depend upon the abuser or others to help meet their basic needs. Help may be needed with food preparation, medication, finances, personal care, or with adaptive equipment.
An abuser may use his partner's disability as a way to cause physical harm, such as:
- placing something in the way of a woman who is blind, causing her to fall;
- leaving a wheelchair-bound woman in a dangerous place without her wheelchair;
- disabling assistive devices for someone who is hearing impaired; and
- threatening to have her placed in an institution or nursing home.
The abuser may also use the disability to mislead police and others. Examples include:
- communicating or interpreting for her by sign language or TTY;
- providing false information about medication; and
- implying that she is "stupid," "crazy," or "drunk."
When women with disabilities try to escape abuse, there are a number of risks. Some of the major risks may include:
- not being able to contact or get to service providers;
- lack of accessible transportation;
- lack of affordable and accessible housing;
- difficulties with communication; and
- a general lack of understanding about disabilities among the general public that might make it hard to get help.
Some women may be threatened with losing their caregiver if they get help or end the relationship. These women may fear that this loss could result in them being placed in an institution or nursing home.
In some cases, women who are abused become disabled as a result of the domestic
violence they experience. In these cases, the victim will face several traumatic
things - the domestic violence incidents and the onset of a disability. There
will be many challenges and changes that she will have to deal with. Disabilities
resulting from abuse can range from actual physical disabilities to more
hidden problems, like head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD).
For more information, visit the Barrier Free Living website.