Sanctuary for the Abused

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Disabled Women & Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence & Disabled Women

By Holly A. Devine MSW, Program Director,
and Carol Briggs, Outreach Coordinator, Barrier Free Living Domestic Violence Program

Domestic Violence is a societal problem that affects women and children of all races, cultures, and ethnicities. However, the problem has been increasingly noted among the disabled population as well. According to the Colorado Department of Health, upwards of 85% of women with disabilities are victims of domestic violence. There are approximately 223,000 in New York City alone.

In spite of the prevalence of domestic violence within the disabled community, there is little awareness of the problem, and there are not enough services in place to work with this population. A majority of people working in domestic violence services are either poorly informed about the problem, or have little experience working with women with disabilities.

Women with disabilities stay in dangerous conditions significantly longer than their able-bodied counterparts, 11.3 years vs. 7.1 years in situations of physical abuse, 8.3 years vs. 4.1 years in situations of sexual abuse, according to a study done by Baylor University. This is due to a number of factors; there is a lack of recognition of the problem, a lack of services available to disabled victims of domestic violence, and high levels of dependence that can cause a woman with a disability to be controlled by their partner or caregiver.

Women with disabilities may view themselves as “damaged goods.” This coupled with abuse serves to decrease one’s self-esteem. Women with disabilities are often dependent upon the abuser to meet their daily needs. Their partners may also be their caregivers. This contributes to the victimization in many ways, an abuser may be able to exert control by withholding of SSI checks, restricting access to transportation, withholding of TTY’s (telecommunications device for the deaf), withholding of wheelchairs and medications, refusal to assist with personal needs and restricting access to family and friends. As a result, a woman with a disability may be forced to stay in an abusive relationship for many years before she reaches out for help. Many women with disabilities accept this behavior due to a different set of dynamics than their able-bodied counterparts.

A deaf women may be forced to use the abuser as her sign language interpreter, due to unavailability of interpreter services. She may fear that her children will be taken away if the abuse is reported. A study done by Barrier Free Living showed that children were removed from deaf victims at a significantly higher rate than from hearing victims. This was due solely on the basis of deafness; legal, mental health, and child welfare systems operating in the city often make assumption about a woman’s ability to be a good parent based on their disability. For example, if a woman has an infant child the court would say the mother was unable to hear the baby cry and therefore unable to care for the child’s needs.

In cases where the abused is wheelchair bound, reporting is uncommon. The victim very often is totally dependent on the abuser to care for their daily needs, this may include personal hygiene, food and clothing. The victim may stay in the relationship out of fear of what will become of her once the abuser is no longer in the household to provide care for her needs. This becomes a major reason for why a disabled victim may find it more difficult to leave an abusive relationship.

Women who were born disabled often come from controlling, overprotective families. They may view controlling behavior by their partners as normal.
A woman who has been abused in her family of origin has come to see abuse as normal and expect it in a relationship.
In the deaf community women will seek out an able-bodied hearing male as a partner because this is viewed as a form of status in the deaf community. In addition, able-bodied men often seek disabled women as partners. These men are looking for an imbalance of power in a relationship, that is the hallmark for abuse. Women with disabilities view their exploitive partners as better than nothing, thereby allowing for a denial of the problem.

Clearly, there is a need for services for disabled victims of domestic violence. Currently there are no domestic violence shelters in place for disabled victims and only one non-residential program that provides services to this population. There is, however, a need for shelters specifically designed and dedicated to disabled victims of domestic violence.

A woman in a wheelchair will need accommodation. For example, doorways that are wide enough, a ramp to gain access to and from the building, hallways that are wide enough, a wheelchair will need to get within three feet of the toilet in the bathroom. A blind individual will need Braille throughout the facility, possibly an accommodation for a seeing eye dog. An individual who is deaf will need staff culturally sensitive to deaf issues. Deaf people may not view themselves as disabled, this is a culture; they have their own community. A deaf individual will also need a sign language interpreter. It is not always acceptable for a family member or friend to interpret for a deaf victim of domestic violence. This may lead to an inaccurate account of the issues. Police officers and service providers need to be trained to assist disabled victims of domestic violence in meeting their needs.

Domestic violence has a powerful impact on women with disabilities, not only physically, both mentally and emotionally as well. Symptoms may include: Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, self-destructive behavior or self mutilation and low self image. If service providers become adequately trained on the issue of domestic violence and disability, they will be better able to empower disabled victims of domestic violence to take control of their lives, and break the cycle of power and control.

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shared by Barbara at 12:35 AM



Thank you for having this webpage and providing real information.
I broke my leg in a bad fall over three years ago, and have had not only bad medical outcomes, but have experienced severe neglect from my husband, who is my only caretaker. As soon as I broke my leg a huge imbalance of power was established. His care is inconsistent and now with my 4th holiday season passing, I have a sprained ankle due to lack of exercise. My husband is very passive aggressive and can provides such unstable treatment, I am suffering on so many levels concurrently.
Ironically, I am a trained professional who helps others with various presenting problems and get great strength from doing my work...I am a shut-in working from is hard for me to be writing this truth, because reading your article did not surprise me concerning that there are not agencies set up to help the disabled. Through atrophy...the large amount of metal in mt ankle area, irritated cartlidge and joints. I had made a ver bad mistake...choosing to care for my patients, since then I do not feel like a shut-in or disabled, maybe temporary, maybe not. I cannot walk 1/2 block without severe pain. In addition, to a few more accidents due to my husband...I have 3 herniated discs...witing here is helping me to get clearer in this moment, which I need to do...I started to avoid my physical therapy, because of my husband's brow beating nature...I am enduring alot of physical pain right now...and I am alone in the same apartment with him and have felt so hopeless...thank you for allowing this space to be here...
I must stay strong, and though I have suffered another "accident"
I must try to take this an hour or day at a time, get back to physical therapy as soon as the doctor gives me the go ahead and never stop it...I am on a bone strenthing medication, with the hopes of having the metal removed from my leg...for now I need to ignore his ignorance/indifference/
insensitivity and take better care of myself...the isolation is a killer. Thank you for being here.
I am sorry to learn first hand about this imbalance of power. I feel better to face this evening with more courage and clearer thinking...this has been a path filled with many disappointments, abandonment by so called friends, when it was my positive energy keeping things's been alot of hard truth to see, plus, most therapists do not have a clue to constuctively work with these dynamics. I need to do some more positive planning since I feel more centered now...God Bless

11:21 PM  

My heart is with you. I am not wheelchair bound, but immobile due to severe pain and muscle atrophy, also long term poor medical care.
We are NOT alone.

Sadly I am even LESS than alone. I am a mother. I cannot save my children from this.

The physical abuse towards me has stopped but the mental abuse, followed by neglect, followed by more mental abuse and violence around me, throwing things, bashing, crashing, smashing, ripping and so on, continues spasmodically.

I need you to know that there must be a way out. This CANNOT be all that there is.

I send you strength, love and warmth and tell you, you are NOT alone.

Be brave, be as strong as you can be. You deserve love.


12:06 AM  

Sorry to hear what you both are going through.

The domestic abuse shelters etc, DO NOTHING for disabled women. The therapists and others do not give a crap.

I am disabled, and the local agencies would do nothing. I got the feeling unless he bashed my face in, I had no rights, and what I had to do to survive is learn not to fight with him and just to live seperated in my mind. My abuse is more low level, smashing things, etc.

I even talked about how I did not feel comfortable going down to the local shelter in the worse part of the ghetto, where you have to take a rickety elevator {I am petrified of elevators} and the building I know is not set up for someone of my disabilities, I was in that building for something else and could not even use the toilets there and had an accident, it is also too large for me to walk in. To be honest the shelter is SO BAD< I know two women who dropped out of the women's group afraid to go to the neighborhood. They tore down the nice house for a golf course. I hate this town.

No one listened to me not at all.

I realized the social workers were not going to do crap for me, and while I figure out a way to get into disabled housing which by the way works against a disabled person trying to sneak out, I was scared of the budget knowing even the local disabled apts would want 400 dollars a rent per month, and realize with utilities, Id have less then $300 a month to live on. I know from experience food stamps go only so far and living here, I am petrified of the social workers putting me in the hard core ghetto that is exactly half of the town here.

I have severe respiratory problems and other serious health troubles and mobility troubles and talked to an entire cadre of idiots that expected to make my own 150 mile move, apartment searches--you need to see the disabled places before you move into them, and more. I wanted to go home to a rural town and was ignored. {had moved to this horrible place and I do not even have one friend here and the isolation and abuse just increased.}

Some even would tell me you won't be able to get an aide. Which for me is necessary for life. So I starting fearing the nursing home and that is why I am still with the abuser.

1:06 PM  

There was no help offered. I remember even saying to one lady, I am too disabled to move my own stuff {I cant even carry over 10lbs without serious respiratory issues} and her telling me, well the domestic abuse shelter does not do that.

I realized how totally alone I am in the world. My family put me under pressure to stay as well. Mother wanted nothing to do with me, when you are disabled, no one wants you to move in, check or no check.

I couldnt even decide what city to move to, I am so alone in the world. [I know I hate this one] and my last town due to economics, many people had left. I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I was refused case managers by two different agencies and I am on disability for mental health problems and physical ones as well. Social workers are not to be trusted and do not care. Dealt with so many freezing icicles, even can't cope with it to this day. My physical, mental and medical needs ignored, invalidiated. I was realizing the woman from the women's shelter here were all ending up homeless after their 4 weeks in. I knew Id be dead to be dealing with the rigors of a homeless shelter in the ghetto. Also with my respiratory problems, air conditioning is a necessity to stay alive in the heat of summer.
they had nothing for me.

I pray for the day for an OUT, where I can leave, or he leaves me. Praying to God everyday.

I know the DV shelters have nothing to offer me and I do not know how to escape in secret to a disabled apt. I went through hell and there was no help. Nearly checked into the mental hospital but after all the abuse and coldness from social workers, I was afraid Id be destroyed there too. Becasue of economics and pure survival issues, I stayed. The DV people with their "empowerment" crap, do NOT get it. They blame those who stay. I looked nationwide for a transition house for disabled abused woman, even in Christian circles, and FOUND NOTHING.

They do NOTHING. I go day by day. Try to be happy. Live with someone I dont love, but smile and pretend, for safety reasons. I have refused sex for a year based on health problems.

I pray he leaves me but he is like a barnacle glued to a ship.

1:08 PM  

I am disabled he started abusing me while pregnant throwing things at me later he abusedf both me and the kids when the protective services came in to accuse him he used my disability and health against me he threatened to sue protective services if they let me leave with the kids after hearing what he had done to them while i was in the hospital the only thing he would agree to was putting the one in care and keeping the other.It broke my heart that that was the best I could do to protect them and it was only for short term . The oldest stopped bunring pictures of him about a month after we got away when she came home with her face snmashed in she said it was her friends who did it but not long after she started accusing neighbors my friends over a dozen ppl of doing what my ex was accused of doing over a decade before hand while I was in hospital for medical issues(heart pneumonia etc )each time.It is doubtful everyone was abusing her the way he did as she was not accusing the neighbors of physical abuse and he was accused of abusing them in almost every way possible

2:38 PM  

I as to that woman's "accidents " I had started walking agn after I had been brought home by ambulance immobile I had learned and gotten strong enough to walk agn not well but I had even made an effort to try and relearn everything agn . I had to say something didn't happen( that I had bruises all over my extremities) You beat someone ppl will see it oop-s for him because a doctor left a door open and he had the kids in another room the doctor didn't believe it i never got to see that doctor he made me start seeing another one My accident was because i tried to leave and he made sure i couldn't walk agn he told the kids not to hug me used the bruises (beating me not mentioned) as an excuse to distance them from me further i had tried leaving with them and was caught on the road about 2 km away

2:48 PM  

I am comforted by finding out that others are suffering as I am. I was diagnosed with Leukemia 4 years ago and a toxic reaction to the chemo in my spinal column left me in a wheelchair. My husband put on the front that he was very caring but behind closed doors, the emotional abuse got worse. When I was able-bodied it was very subtle, but after I was able to leave the hospital, he thought I was trapped and indebted to him. Each day that goes by, the abuse seems to get worse. Neglect, sarcasm, laziness, and every kind of mental abuse possible. He has turned one of my kids away from me and is working on the other two. How can the closest people who say they love us be so cruel? I have been looking for an escape but none seems to be available for anyone in a wheelchair. I don't have any financial aid from the province so I don't know where to turn next. A Social Worker in the hospital when I nearly died, called him to tell him how sick I was, and he just told her to let him know how it turned out because he didn't want to leave work to be with me. It put up a red flag to her and she tried to help me. But there is NO WHERE TO GO WHEN YOU'RE DISABLED!!! I am glad to know I'm not alone. I thought I was the only one who had a hateful spouse who treated me badly when he supposedly loved me. Where can we go?

3:46 PM  

I am in the same boat. My back is bad and I cannot work anymore. Now I am a prisoner in this house and told not to spend money or waste gas while he goes shopping for whatever and eats out. The shelter is good for 60 days and then I have no where to go. Unless you are there, you do not understand. We all need to get houses together so we can live cheaper.And be able to support each other. By bunking up and moving away from the abusers, we can make it. We just need to get together...How do we do that. I am in Washington and want to go to Oregon or Wyoming.

10:33 PM  

I am so sorry for all of you who are suffering as a result of your bad choice in a "man". I too, am disabled thanks to a piece of trash who beat the living crap out of me when I tried to break up with him years ago. He crushed my spine and unfortunately his real girlfriend is a nurse who not only harassed me while I was in the hospital but robbed my home and abused my pets, so I demanded to be released rather than undergo crucial surgery--so actually I have 2 people who are responsible for my disability.
What I find MOST annoying is the label attached to me as a Domestic Violence Victim (I prefer to think of myself as a SURVIVOR, but society thinks otherwise). My neighbors have laughed at me for years, begging me to come to parties, etc and always managing to bring up the incident. I have to wonder what exactly is the pay-off for someone to look at a woman whose life was destroyed, almost bankrupted financially, the chance of having a child taken away, and laugh in her face or bring up a humiliating experience? I have tried even turning the tables on these morons and acted like it doesn't bother me, even that doesn't work. Unfortunately we belong to a group of women who will never be understood or respected or admired, regardless of what we accomplish.

1:06 PM  

I have MS and experienced 3 major flares, the last one was last year, and lasted 9 months.

With each flare, my husband completely ignored me. I became severely undernourished.

I separated from him for 2 years but went back because of finances.

Now, it's worse than before and I just realized he's passive aggressive. He's been punishing me through money. He gives me so much a month to save towards a corrective surgery I need, yet I'm not allowed access to the money in the bank. So, I have to pay my car insurance, physical therapy, gas, and personal items from that money. It leaves very little to save.

He knows I can't get a job and have no where to go, but if I don't do what he wants, he punishes me in other ways. Lately, it's been the money issue, though in the recent past, when I was going through a horrible flare, he only would do his wash and only helped me get food once a day, and that's it...he wouldn't ask me how I was feeling or anything. He completely ignores me.

1:54 PM  

the System, criminal and child protective included, abuse disabled women as well as collude and enable abusive men. I know, I am living this nightmare...I am so sick to death of hearing people talk about how horrid Islam is to women, when I live in a situation along with my children [two who are not even his bio children and whom he is extreme in his psychological abuse to, they are both females] that compares to women in Iran or Afghanistan, and I live in CO.

My abuser is an expert at psychological abuse...has priors with four other women I would later find [in same state/area too] and has had two of them successfully put on forced drugging, through using CPS [child protection] accusations against them or the police [against the second woman] when it's HIM who is doing the abuse and neglect. He is college educated and studied psychology when he was living with the woman prior to me. She was able to escape, but the day she left, he beat her and was arrested--but alas, the State only gave him diversion and so now he thinks he's God.

When I married him [pregnant] I did not see this, I thought he was a good family man, I now realize he used psyche games and GUILT, he is a narcissist and a psychopath, very passive aggressive but his actions are deliberate and pre-planned. He HATES WOMEN, including his mother who is now on psychotropics and loe and behold who now [in nursing home] my husband succeeded in her signing over insurance to him, neglecting entirely his sister, whom he also hates and has not seen in over twenty years.

The State knew this, they flat out did not CARE. I did all the work, always had to cover for his neglect of bills, our rental, etc., at first I bought his lies and manipulation, but eventually I started to see something wasn't right but by then, I was wore down emotionally and physically [what his first wife told me he did to her later], and I injured my spine. I was diagnosed with degenerative in 2009, after I threatened to call 911 on him if he didn't take me somewhere to be treated, I could not walk, I was in excrutiating pain, and he laughed. He took me to a Chiro, then after I was diagnosed, he canceled our insurance. He likes his women sick, he says it 'makes the sex better', in a joking but hostile manner.

Anyway, I did the best I could homeschooling, taking care of the house, doing what I could to make sure bills were paid while not being able to walk...we had several cats. The males I was able to get spayed, but two female cats needed to husband then lost the car, why? Because he doesn't believe in authority [over himself] and the mobile park towed the cats began to get out and got pregnant. I rehomed the first liter, the second liter I could not function and the kittens/momma cats took over the house, literally. The house slowly got trashed, I had no help. My husband didn't care, I begged him to get rid of the cats, he refused. My kids [all teens] got sick of having to help when husband would do nothing, in fact husband hoards and is a slob...con't

6:44 PM  

CON'T so the last 7 months of 2011 the house became unliveable, with me bed ridden on most days or barely able to walk. Eventually animal control was called...I told them everything, about the DV, my disability, they went in, took the cats then called the police...they were told [by my children as well] and they then called CPS. Of course, they all ignored or trivialized the DV and my husband's priors [including jail time] and focused on me.

My kids went to my husband's son, the CPS worker ignored his BDSM chains and whips on the wall, and the snakes [pythons] and said it was ok for the kids to be there while I cleaned husband of course, poo poo, was the Victim, I wasn't charged then...

no one believed I was injured. My husband, covering his tracks, of course made himself to be this poor poor man who works and is so kind and needs sympathy [the same crap he told me about his ex wife, he did the same thing to her, same area, different county and he still stalks her to this day through his kids with her who are All messed up]

anyway, Monday the cops came, charged me with child neglect and animal cruelty. My husband was not charged, he was given VICTIM status...over my two children [other was 19 and I chose to leave her out as much as possible so they wouldn't charge her, my husband hates her]

one of my children, the 16 is not his, he is horribly abusive to her, he uses our son [that is his] as a pawn, encouraging things from criminal behavior [anti-social] to truancy. My son knows this, he's 12 but it's very damaging. The thing is, my husband has to be Center of Attention, no matter what...con't

6:45 PM  

CON'T anyway, then it was voluntary work with CPS, which my husband used to force me to stay with him and they so happily obliged. They insisted I was mental, I wasn't disabled, oh no...three weeks later when they sent a Life Skills person over, I could not move at all, She had to take me to hospital...I had done further damage to my spine, herniated disk now in upper, due to overcompensating, with cleaning,

I had pictures of the house for years when it was clean before my spine deteriorated so the CPS knew this was not some chronic thing...but they still chose to ignore the disability but after the hospital, they started to back off of me some, they enabled and coddled my husband however who BRAGGED about his anti-gov crap.

Anyway, I was told to see spine surgeon and nuero immediately, my husband laughed, so I had to sneak money and go, alone, and come to find, I have a severe spine disease, bulging disk and bone atrophy in lower spine Plus now degenerative disease in upper. I need surgery, I am losing ability to walk...literally, among other things like bowel control, etc., Also had MRI,

when CPS saw THOSE records they shut up about the mental, and closed the case. They all the time, even after I showed them two restraining orders and arrests and records on my husband from two other women, ignored the DV. As did the criminal system...they flat did not care. My public defender didn't even Want to see my medical records or anything, I got told,

'he wasn't charged you were', 'you're avoiding responsibility', 'no you have to plead or else', Con't

I plead. It was the Only way I could protect my daughter (16) and my son (12), CPS I asked not to close the case, I told them I'd rather them be in Foster care and SAFE than be with my husband if I went to jail--I have NO PRIORS, nada, don't do drugs, don't drink [one glass a wine a year if that] but my husband has a DV record and DUIs.

That didn't matter, he also has had kids in Foster Care/Juv in another state with his ex wife. That didn't matter either,

all they saw was an older disabled woman and felt sorry for the poor poor man, it makes me sick. Anyway court comes, my husband plays the 'she's mental' card with the DA to of course, feed his narcissistic need for attention, She was happy to oblige him, but when it came my turn to tell the judge what my PD left out, I thanked CPS and Life Skills for saving my life, for taking me to hospital and told him about the disability. He was shocked, the DA was furious that I let it slip and my PD was I don't know, surprised? How I got the idea of thanking the State for helping me, I don't know,

but then my husband [the DA's victim] came his turn to talk, he puts on this huge show, about how it's the State's fault [he works for the gov, college] for having too expensive insurance and oh how he Loves me sooooo much. It was a circus show. Anyway the judge didn't buy it but because of the child abuse [neglect-dirty house] charge, he had to give me something so he gave me six months probation. Con't

6:46 PM  

con't due to Word Count, I had to delete the rest, anyhow, to close,

and Where's the ADA on this? No where,, unless it's class action, forget it, you are nobody.

And meanwhile, we send men [who rape our own women veterans] to other countries, justifying the rape and murders of Muslims, because OH MY GOD they are just So horrible to their women,

and they are doing the same and WORSE to women here, in our own backyard. Our COURTS, OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEMS, that are supposed to Work for us,

are working, to abuse and kill us, using clever means in doing so, while making profit off of our broken bodies and broken spirits. Con't sorry it's so long but all who come here Need to be Aware that this is going on in our system...

6:52 PM  

He wants me dead. Best thing for me would be if he kills me fast. I called 911. The police could see that I couldn't walk. They said,"who owns the house?" I said, "he does." they told me I should leave the house. I called the domestic violence shelter. They told me I'd be at the top of the list because I'm disabled, "BUT... There are no beds available- Keep calling back every month." My best hope is that he kills me soon. In the meantime I pray that others never have to live like this.

4:31 AM  

yes its true Domestic Violence is a societal problem that affects women and children of all races, cultures, and ethnicities. I think everyone must try to stop it as soon as possible

9:15 AM  

Call that shelter and ask for a referral to another shelter out of town or out of state. They have resources and connections. Churches can help as well with gas money, groceries, clothing, and hotel vouchers. Dont give up...have faith. Pray to our Heavenly Father in His sons Name, and He will open doors for you, and direct your path. B E L I E V E

9:50 PM  

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