Domestic Violence and Disabled People

Nov 29, 2013, 05:20 PM

People with disabilities suffering from domestic violence can lose out on all sides, facing both the danger of the abuse and marginalisation in a system that may lack support for them Professor Gill Hague of the School for Policy Studies, Bristol University explains the risks and the existing evidence. Transcript Thank you for inviting me to speak on this podcast On the subject of disabled women and domestic violence, this is an issue which has been massively ignored over the years. There has been a paucity of research except for a few small scale very pioneering studies over many years. Then Women’s Aid, the main provider of domestic violence services in the UK, conducted the first and only national funded UK study of disabled women and domestic violence from 2008 till 2010, led by myself from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research in the University of Bristol, together with Ravi Thiara from the University of Warwick, with Audrey Mullender from Ruskin College as consultant, and conducted by a mixed team of disabled and non disabled researchers and advised by a mixed group of disabled and non disabled advisers. This study confirmed the earlier smaller studies in finding that disabled women experiencing abuse face discrimination, vulnerability and hardships from all sides. Our study and the disability equality movement use the social model of disability, understanding that it is the failure of society to provide properly for the needs of disabled people that is truly disabling, and not people’s individual conditions. It is important to adhere to the great, and on occasion inspiring, principle of the disabled people’s equality movement: ‘Nothing about us without us’. And a major finding of ours was that all practice and policy developments, and awareness raising and training on this subject , can only be achieved in collaboration with and if possible with leadership from disabled women. However at the moment, the story is one of lack of lacks and gaps and disabled women facing abuse lose out from all sides For example, there are insufficient services to assist abused disabled women in both the domestic violence and the disability sectors a) Their needs still tend to be marginalised within domestic violence services despite the best of intentions and many refuges and services doing their very best to improve. There is still a long way to go in terms of services which are accessible in all ways (ie not just wheelchair accessible)

b) From the disability side, women who have experienced dv are often almost completely overlooked within the services provided by the disability equality movement and other disability services (often due to lack of funding or of knowledge about the issue).
Thus disabled women who have been abused face a kind of double jeopardy.
As regards the dv which disabled women experience, this can be from personal assistants / carers (our research produced some ideas and pointers about that) but is often from carers who are also partners. While many relationships between disabled women and partner-carers are, of course, not violent, those that are abusive are often distressing in the extreme... Disabled women describe abuse experiences that are complex, very serious and sometimes prolonged over long periods, and may differ from those of non-disabled women because the abuse may be closely linked to their impairments, i.e. the abuser may use the impairment as part and parcel of the abuse.
Thus, abused disabled women are often in situations of greater vulnerability and isolation especially is they have to call on their abuser if they need any sort of assistance or help. They often may also become almost invisible within service provision, and are frequently severely marginalised in society in general, Disabled women often face difficult restrictions re any possible exit route from the violence because of the absence of support services and other opportunities, and because they may not be able ...