Growing up in a place that is supposedly one of the more progressive and advanced nations, I’m often surprised at how little people know. There are women who are being abused constantly, hiding their bruises (both physical and emotional), with ease because no one is actively looking for them. There are people who turn a blind eye when they know something isn’t right, and there are those who just plainly aren’t aware of what abuse is. Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used to maintain control over someone else. The abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, psychological, etc… The abuser can oftentimes be a partner, but can also be a family member or caregiver. The behaviors exhibited by the abuser are used to instill fear into the victim in order to perpetuate the power they have.
Recently, I almost scrolled by a post talking about domestic violence against women with disabilities. I realized then that, though I’ve known what domestic violence is, I’d never thought about how much it must affect those who aren’t as able to care for themselves as I am. There aren’t many articles on the topic, and I noticed while browsing websites pertaining to abuse, not all of them included statistics for victims with disabilities. This is upsetting because it’s such a cruel reality for many. Not just nationwide, but internationally.
Disabled women are 40% more likely to become victims of abuse than women without. The abuse can include, but is not limited to: withholding or giving too much medication, removing mobility device(s), withholding food, clean clothes, and bathes, sexual assault, isolation, coercion.
Leaving an abusive situation is difficult enough, but when the abuser doubles as the person who’s also your caregiver, it becomes 10x more difficult to find a way out.
It’s easy enough for a carer to remove access to mobility devices such as wheelchairs, motorized scooters, if they feel their power is being threatened. Abusers also have the terrible habit of minimizing abuse or shifting blame upon their victims. They have the ability to make the victim feel burdensome, which, in turn can make the victim feel as if the abuse is their fault.
This is a topic I wish more people spoke about. I wish more women who have experienced abuse from a caregiver would report it to the authorities. I wish more people would listen. These forms of abuse are such a common occurrence, that some people couldn’t even tell you they were being taken advantage of, since it seems so normal.
No one deserves to be abused. Especially those who may rely on others daily. It’s cruel, inhumane, and downright sickening. If you are someone who has dealt with or are currently dealing with this, please seek help. The National Domestic Hotline is open 24/7. Call 800-799-SAFE (7233). The National Sexual Assault Hotline is open 24/7. Call 800.656.HOPE (4673). You’re not alone and the abuse will never, ever, be your fault. You have rights, and I hope the education and prevention of abuse against disabled women will become as important and talked about as it should be. It’s real, it happens, and it needs to be stopped.