For People Living with Disabilities
While all survivors of sexual and domestic violence experience a range of responses to abuse, you may have some specific concerns as a person living with a visible or invisible disability. Common concerns range from figuring out if programs will have what you need to access services to worrying about whether people will believe you. You are not alone, and it’s not your fault. People with disabilities may be twice as likely to experience sexual or domestic violence than non-disabled adults. Because sexual and domestic violence are always about the abuse of power, people with disabilities are especially vulnerable to abuse.
What are the dynamics of violence against people with disabilities?
Sexual and domestic violence, when perpetrated against people with disabilities has many of the same dynamics as the general public. In addition, some people experience added levels or types of violence based on their physical, emotional, or sensory needs. Some specific ways that people with disabilities may be abused are:
Witholding or denial of care, medications or basic needs.
Manipulation and interruption of care necessary for day-to-day functioning and quality of life.
Hiding or vandalizing wheelchairs, walkers, or equipment needed for communication and mobility.
Exploitation due to inability to consent or agree to sexual activity.
You May Feel
It is common to feel overwhelmed, confused, afraid, depressed, alone, and unsure of what to do. You may feel more vulnerable if you rely on the person who abused you for help with transportation, communication, or your daily activities. You may wonder whether sexual and domestic violence programs will be safe and supportive places for you to turn, or whether you can physically access them or communicate with their staff.
Learning more about your rights, and about services available to you, you will begin to feel more hopeful.
Things You Should Know
All people, including those living with disabilities, have the right to live free from sexual and domestic violence
There are special legal, employment, housing, and economic considerations for people with disabilities.
In Massachusetts, the Disabled Persons’ Protection Commission is available to help insure your rights are protected.
For Help and More Information
All the sexual and domestic violence programs provide free and confidential services to any victim or survivor, including those with disabilities. When you contact them, you will find that they understand your concerns and will work with you to ensure that you and your family can live in safety and with dignity.
In Massachusetts, for emergency help, please call 911.
In Massachusetts, you can also contact the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to file a report, get a referral for services, and learn more about your rights and options. The Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) is an independent state agency that deals with reports, investigations, and services for persons with disabilities who experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or neglect. DPPC also provides training and education on these issues and works closely with others in the sexual and domestic violence field to improve and sensitize programs to the needs of disabled victims and survivors.