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Domestic abuse and the disabled community

Domestic abuse and the disabled community is something that isn’t often spoken about.

When we think about domestic abuse, we usually think about a stereotypical scenario. The one between a man and a woman. With the man as the person causing harm and the woman the victim. However, we don’t usually think about how the disabled community may be victims of domestic abuse.

When thinking about the disabled “community” it’s important to recognise that each group is unique. Each group has its particular support needs and each person has their own individual needs.
A study by the University of Warwick, found that 15.7% of disabled women experience domestic abuse each year. This compared to 7.1% of non-disabled women. Similarly, disabled men experienced 8.4% in contrast to 4% of non-disabled men. These figures show that disabled people are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse as non-disabled.

However, when we look our referrals into domestic abuse support services, we don’t see this percentage reflected. Let’s look at why?


Social attitudes

While we’ve come a long way with education around disabilities, there are still some regressive attitudes to disabled people. There is the (wrong) perception that they may not have the same needs and desires. Some even think that disabled people have different pain thresholds.

Situational risk

Disabled people may have high levels of dependency on family members who may go on to become perpetrators. This could include parents, siblings, children or partners. There is an increased risk of isolation. If abuse has been going on for a long time, it may be seen as “normal” by those being abused.


Access to a variety of services is an important part of everyday life. However, those who suffer a disability may not be in a position to request help. We might see a lack of access to:

  • appropriate information
  • approachable services
  • police responses. Particularly if the victim has a lack of effective communication skills

In 2014 a study by Professor Karen Rich concluded that;

Women with physical disabilities are at high risk of intimate partner violence. In addition, they are subject to inaccurate stereotypes, including challenges to their gender identities. Like other assaulted women, they may reframe the violence they experience in order to reduce stigmatization.

Quote from one of the Women who took part in the study

When the slapping started, at first I was shocked. No boyfriend ever lifted a hand to me before. But… I’ve been through more than that from my doctors.

What can we do? 


The Dragonfly Project was created to reach people in isolated communities that would not normally find accessing support easy.

We provide free domestic abuse awareness workshops which will help you understand how domestic abuse impacts the victim, what domestic abuse is and how you can help.

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