A review of current research by Public Health England in 2015 confirmed that people with disabilities are more vulnerable to domestic abuse and violence and will often face additional difficulties in accessing support.
Someone who is disabled and experiencing domestic abuse may find it harder to protect themselves, access sources of help, or remove themselves from the abusive situation; the disabled person may be reliant on the abuser for personal care or mobility. They can be subject to physical, psychological, sexual or financial abuse in any or all of the ways that non-disabled people are abused, but in addition, they may experience the following forms of abusive behaviour:
- An abuser may withhold care from them or undertake it neglectfully or abusively.
- An abuser may remove mobility or sensory devices that they need for independence.
- An abuser may be claiming state benefits in order to care for them — enabling them to control your finances more effectively.
- An abuser may use their disability to taunt or degrade them.
Difficulties with disclosure
Disabled victims may already be socially isolated because of their disability, but also find it harder to disclose abuse because they have no opportunity to see health or social care professionals without their abuser being present. They may have particular concerns about moving out of their home as it may have been specially adapted for them, or perhaps a care package has been organised and they are worried that they will lose their current level of independence if you are forced to move elsewhere. They may be reluctant to report domestic abuse from a partner whose care they depend on, and which they believe enables them to stay out of institutional care.
As a disabled person, they may be regarded as a “vulnerable adult” or “adult at risk”, and in this instance, there are multi-agency policies and procedures for the safeguarding and protection of vulnerable adults. You can find details of these on your local authority’s Adult Safeguarding Board website.
Further reading and resources
- Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust have produced a short film highlighting the abuse suffered by adults at risk
- Buckinghamshire County Council have released a poster and leaflet highlighting the issues around abuse of adults with disabilities
- We Matter Too – Disabled young people’s experiences of services and responses when they experience domestic abuse – Ann Craft Trust, 2019
- Guidance for Multi-agency meetings regarding people with disabilities – SafeLives, 2018
- Disability and domestic abuse: Risk, impacts, and response – Public Health England, 2015
- Books Beyond Words - a charity providing books and training to support people who find pictures easier to understand than words
- Healthy Relationships Workbook from the Arc of Spokane is designed to assist a person with an intellectual or developmental disability to learn about healthy relationships, identify and recognise abuse, and to know who to contact for help
- Ann Craft Trust website
Additional support guidance
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