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Alameda County Family Justice Center

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Unique Aspects of Domestic Violence for Women with Disabilities

While all survivors experience different forms of abuse, survivors with disabilities may experience domestic violence more intensely with a larger number of abusers and incidents of abuse. Their ability to report the abuse and/or leave their abuser may also be more challenging due to their disability and society's misconceptions about people with disabilities. The inaccessibility of resources make survivors with disabilities more vulnerable to abuse and possibly allowing the abuse to last for a longer period of time, from childhood in some cases.

Women with disabilities experience the same types of abuse reported by all women survivors, but they are subject to unique forms of abuse. Some examples of abuse include withholding medicine and other assistive devices, like wheelchairs, TTY, and braces, threatening to harm them with necessary equipment and refusing to assist with essential basic needs like eating, bathing and toileting.

Power and Control Wheel: People with Disabilities and Their Caregivers

Another unique aspect that women with disabilities face is the lack of support from family, friends and agencies which in turn may serve as a barrier to leaving an abusive relationship. Family members, caregivers and intimate partners, may victimize women with disabilities. Acquaintances and staff in institutional settings may also see women with disabilities as vulnerable targets for abuse. Many survivors have been victimized multiple times by different offenders. In addition, existing agencies and resources may not be accessible or sensitive to women who have disabilities and are trying to escape from their abusive situation.

While many women without disabilities leave an abuser an average of 6-7 times, women with disabilities may have even more limited options in finding an accessible domestic violence shelter, ASL interpreter, accessible long term housing and financial assistance before they feel ready to leave. Additionally, actions that may not be considered abusive for other survivors may be extremely harmful to a woman who is disabled.

If a woman who is disabled is being abused by someone who also has a disability, the victim may not be believed because of the misconception that he is incapable of being abusive. The survivor may be fearful of seeking relief in the courts or law enforcement because she does not want to expose the violence in her own community.

Safety Issues for Survivors with Disabilities
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