A review of current research by Public Health England in 2015 confirmed that people with disabilities are more vulnerable to domestic violence and will often face additional difficulties in attempting to access 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 case there are multi-agency policies and procedures for the safeguarding and protection of vulnerable adults.
Buckinghamshire County Council has released a poster and leaflet highlighting the issues around abuse of adults with disabilities; the vast majority of information and resources they contain are relevant wherever you are in the UK.
We've also been playing two audio adverts to raise awareness — if you're in the Thames Valley area you may have caught them on the radio.
Services and agencies for disabled people
Provides support, information and advice to more than a quarter of a million disabled people and their families every year.
Tel: 0808 800 3333 (weekdays 09.00-17.00)
Disability Rights UK
The leading authority on social security benefits for disabled people; the website contains regularly updated information about benefits, tax credits and community care.
A BSL-based service from SignHealth designed to help Deaf women and children who suffer domestic violence.
Text: 07970 350366
Voice/minicom: 020 8772 3241
Fax: 020 8772 3242
Action on Hearing Loss
Information service for deaf and hard of hearing people, their carers, families and professionals.
Tel: 0808 808 0123 (weekdays 09.00-17.00)
Text Phone: 0808 808 9000
A registered charity providing advice and support to disabled people with learning difficulties who have been abused. Respond works with children and adults with learning disabilities who have experienced abuse or trauma, as well as those who have abused others, through psychotherapy, advocacy, campaigning and other support. Respond also aims to prevent abuse by providing training, consultancy and research.