Sanctuary for the Abused

Friday, May 02, 2014

Disabled Women & Abuse



Domestic violence & women with disabilities

Domestic violence means violence that occurs in your home. Around one quarter of married women and women in de facto relationships in Australia experience domestic violence at some stage. Compared to women without disabilities, women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and for more extended periods of time.

Types of violence
The different types of domestic violence experienced by women with disabilities can include:

The abusers
According to Western Australian research, the abusers are:
Male spouse or partner - 43 per cent
Parent - 15 per cent
Female spouse or partner - 11 per cent
Other relative - 8 per cent
Child - 7 per cent
Another person such as a neighbour - 6 per cent
Carer - 4 per cent
Work colleague - 2 per cent
Healthcare professional - 2 per cent
House or flat mate - 1 per cent
Clergy - 1 per cent.

Women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence


Compared to women without disabilities, women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and for more extended periods of time. Some of the many reasons for this include:

Social myths - people with disabilities are often dismissed as passive, helpless, child-like, non-sexual and burdensome. These prejudices tend to make people with disabilities less visible to society, and suggest that abuse, especially sexual abuse, is unlikely.

Learned helplessness - people with disabilities, particularly people with cognitive disabilities or those who have been living in institutions for a long time, are encouraged to be compliant and cooperative. This life history can make it harder for a woman to defend herself against abuse.

Lack of sex education - there is a tendency to deny sex education to people with intellectual disabilities. If a woman with no knowledge of sex is sexually abused, it is harder for her to seek help because she may not understand exactly what is happening to her.

Dependence - the woman may be dependent on her abuser for care because her disability limits her economic and environmental independence.

Misdiagnosis - authorities may misinterpret a cry for help; for example, a woman's behaviour might be diagnosed as 'anxiety' rather than signs of abuse. In other situations, workers may not be aware that domestic violence also includes financial or emotional abuse, or may not be sensitive to the signs.

The abuser takes control - if the woman seeks help, follow-up may be difficult because the abuser isolates her and prevents her from using the phone or leaving the house.

Reasons for not seeking help from authorities
One US study found that women with disabilities tend not to report the abuse themselves. Some of the many reasons why women with disabilities may not seek help from authorities and support agencies include:



Fear can stop women from seeking help
Common fears include:

Some of the reasons why women with disabilities may not get help include:

Where to get help
Your doctor
Police
Ambulance
Domestic Violence Outreach Workers

Compared to women without disabilities, women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and for more extended periods of time.

The male spouse or partner is the abuser in 53 per cent of cases according to one Western Australian study.  Your abuser may well be female

There are many barriers that prevent women with disabilities from seeking help, including reliance on the abuser, fear and service gaps in disability and women's agencies.

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