Violence Against Women with DisAbilities & Deaf Women

Violence against women with disAbilities and Deaf women is an under-recognized, under-researched and under-resourced social and health concern. View statistics on its incidence and prevalence globally and in Canada, as well as resources on the types of violence experienced, its consequences including trauma, and barriers to disclosure and support encountered by women. Also available are reports on policy, promising practices, support services and prevention initiatives. The layered realities are captured in articles on the multiple oppressions experienced by Aboriginal women with disabilities, ableism as a form of violence, and audits reflecting the experiences of women with disAbilities and Deaf women.

A First Nations Woman with Disabilities: “Listen to what I am saying!”
This exploratory and qualitative study describes the courageous story of a First Nations woman living with severe disAbilities in an urban city. The personal story of Hope describes issues of grief, racism, verbal and sexual abuse, healthcare concerns, isolation, poverty, relationships, resisting child welfare, and sexuality. Hope’s story is a learning opportunity for all health and social service providers.

Abelism -- A Form of Violence Against Women. Critical Reflections by Fran Odette
Learning Network Brief 11
Fran Odette (2013).  This Learning Brief names ableism as a form of violence against self-identified women with disAbilities and aims to increase awareness and understanding of its existence and impacts. Click for PlainText Version.

Aboriginal People with Disabilities: A Vacuum in Public Policy
This paper summarizes a research study that examined the issues facing urban Aboriginal persons with disAbilities in Canada. Seven in-depth focus group sessions were held with Aboriginal persons with disAbilities. Furthermore, the experiences and perspectives of service providers who work with Aboriginal persons with disAbilities were examined. The results of the study identify the barriers faced by Aboriginal persons with disAbilities living in Canada and recommendations to overcome these barriers.

Accessible Versions of Violence Against Women with DisAbilities and Deaf women Newsletter
The full Issue 7 newsletter is available in a plain text format and portions have been made available in ASL.

AODA e-learning: Improving Access to Violence Against Women Services for Women with Disabilities
Springtide Resources (2012)
Springtide Resources provides a free online training resource designed to help service providers effectively support and advocate for women with disabilities and women who are Deaf who have experienced physical or sexual violence, including criminal harassment. The training focuses on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Customer Service Standard; communicating and engaging with people with disabilities including serving those who use service animals, support persons or assistive devices; and ensuring accessibility at one’s own agency

Building the Evidence. A report on the status of policy and practice in responding to violence against women with disabilities in Victoria
This 2008 report outlines research conducted in Australia that analyzed the extent to which current family violence policy and practice recognizes and provides for women with disAbilities who experience violence in order to make recommendations to improve responses to women with disAbilities dealing with family violence. The research study included an extensive literature review on violence against women with disAbilities; interviews with women with disAbilities who experienced violence and service providers; identification of promising practices, current family violence standards, needs and training initiatives, and recommendations for future policy, practice, research, and evaluation. Some examples of key themes and findings from the research include a need for collaboration between disability and family violence sectors; including risks to women with disAbilities in assessments; making supports and services accessible; educating women with disAbilities and the community about violence and support services available; providing secure and permanent housing options; ensuring the incidence of violence against women with disAbilities is not invisible; and training family violence workers in disability awareness.

Criminal Victimization and Health: A Profile of Victimization Among Persons with Activity Limitations or Other Health Problems
This 2009 report from Statistics Canada refers to data largely from the 2004 General Social Survey in order to provide a profile on the links between criminal victimization and activity limitations. The report provides characteristics of incidents, victims, and perpetrators. The perceptions of crime and the justice system among persons with activity limitations are outlined.

Daisie Project: Violence Against Disabled Women Survey
Wise Women
is an organization in Glasgow, Scotland that was set up to address women’s fears and experiences of crime and violence through the provision of free personal safety and confidence building courses. Wise Women also provides courses and workshops for women who experience different and additional types of violence as a result of discrimination. In 2008, Wise Women received government funding for a two year initiative called The Daisie Project. Within this project, Wise Women conducted a survey with 62 women with physical and sensory impairments to get a sense of the extent and impact of violence against disAbled women. The report outlines women’s responses on fears of crime, violence and abuse; violence against disAbled women; discrimination and barriers; and service evaluations.

DeafHope was founded in 2003 with the mission to help end domestic and sexual violence against Deaf women and children.  DeafHope provides services to Deaf survivors, educates service providers and the community about domestic and sexual violence, and provides training and technical assistance to establish more accessible services for Deaf survivors.  The website contains several informative videos on the dynamics of sexual and domestic violence; survivor stories; safety planning; community accountability; providing accessible services; training; and youth violence.

Double Oppression: Violence Against Disabled Women. A resource pack for practitioners
This resource was developed by the nia project, an organization in the UK that aims to prevent violence against women and children. It contains information on the context and prevalence on violence against women with disAbilities; the medical and social models of disAbility; types of violence experienced by women with disAbilities; how to make support services more accessible; local support agencies; and safety planning.

E-newsletter Issue 7: December 2013. Violence Against Women with DisAbilities and Deaf Women
We are pleased to have partnered with DAWN-RAFH Canada for this extended, accessible newsletter that focuses on the under-recognized, under-researched and under-resourced social concern -- violence against women with disAbilities and Deaf women.  We highlight the intersectional context of violence experienced by women with disAbilities, draw on lived experience, and provide statistics and resources.
Click here for Plain Text Version
Click here for ASL Version
Click here for French Translation Version

Eight Step Advocacy Plan for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Survivors of Sexual Assault
This 2015 guide is intended for rural sexual assault advocates searching for concrete information on how to work with Deaf and hard of hearing sexual assault survivors. Deaf survivors of sexual assault face numerous obstacles, such as isolation, stereotyping, and lack of anonymity in accessing all kinds of services in rural communities. The steps in this guide will direct you towards providing Deaf sexual assault survivors with trauma-informed and culturally appropriate services, assist you in identifying accommodations in services and changes in technology, and encourage you to reach out to Deaf sexual assault survivors in your community.

Factors associated with physical and sexual violence among Canadian women living with physical disabilities
This study looked at the experiences of physical and sexual violence among Canadian women living with physical disabilities.  A sample of 1,095 women with disabilities was drawn from the subscription list of Abilities Magazine, a Canadian cross-disability publication that focuses on important topics (e.g., human rights, health) to people living with a variety of disabilities.  The study examined the sociodemographic (e.g., age, cultural identity, education level) and disability variables (e.g., born with a disability; activity limitation) of the sample; the types of violence experienced (e.g., emotional, physical, and sexual); and factors associated with physical and/or sexual violence experienced (e.g., age when experienced violence; health conditions and experience with violence).  Results indicated that older women; women who self-identified as coming from ethnoracial communities; women with total household incomes of less than $20,000 and $49,999 per year; women living with two or more health conditions; women who had some or most of their activities limited by pain; and women who did not receive information about sexuality were more likely to report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence. Over one third of all respondents reported experiencing physical violence and just under one third reported experiencing sexual violence.  You can access the full article through the library system or through a paid membership account.

Intimate partner violence against Deaf female college students
This study examined the prevalence of intimate partner violence victimization in a sample of 100 female university students in Washington, DC who self-identified as Deaf or hard of hearing.  Physical assault, psychological aggression, and sexual coercion victimization within an intimate partner relationship were identified and compared to a sample of hearing female undergraduate university students.  Results indicated that Deaf or hard of hearing female students were approximately two times as likely to have experienced victimization in an intimate relationship within the past year compared to hearing female students.  You can access the full article through the library system or through a paid membership account.

Intimate partner violence among women with mental health-related activity limitations: a Canadian population based study
This 2014 research paper, by Janice Du Mont and Tonia Forte, examines data from the 2009 General Social Survey to determine the prevalence and risk of intimate partner violence among non-institutionalized women with activity limitations due to a mental health condition.  The findings of the research suggest that women with mental health-related activity limitations may be at increased risk of intimate partner violence.

Partner Violence Against Women With Disabilities: Prevalence, Risk and Explanations
This research investigated the risk for partner violence against women with disAbilities compared to women without disAbilities in order to determine if the risk was elevated for women with disAbilities and to identify potential explanations for the elevated risk. A sample of 7,027 Canadian women, living in a marital or common-law relationship, was obtained from the 1999 General Social Survey. The researchers identified persons with disAbilities based on the World Health Organization (WHO) and/or United Nations (UN) definition of disAbility. There were a total of 5,935 women in the study who did not have a disAbility and 1,092 women who did have a disAbility. Results indicated that women with disAbilities reported a higher prevalence of partner violence over the 5 years prior to the survey than women without disAbilities. Furthermore, male partners of women with disAbilities were about 2.5 times more likely to behave in a patriarchal dominating manner and 1.5 times more likely to engage in sexually proprietary behaviours (i.e., jealousy and possessive behaviour) than male partners of women without disAbilities with these behaviours being linked to an increased risk of violence for all women.

Patterns of Sexual Abuse and Assault
This 1991 research study analyzed reports from people with disAbilities and their advocates on sexual assault victimization. Results indicate that sexual violence against persons with disAbilities is frequently repeated and chronic, results in significant harm to the victim, and is rarely reported to authorities or results in charges and convictions. The majority of offenses are perpetrated by male service providers against female victims. A discussion on a multifactorial, ecological model of abuse and recommendations for prevention strategies are provided. The full document can be retrieved through the library or paid access.

Safety Planning Across Culture & Community: A Guide for Front Line Violence Against Women Responders
This guide was developed to help professionals who support survivors of woman abuse broaden their approach to safety planning by including more specific factors and considerations relevant to women with differing social locations.  The guide outlines: 1) general risk identification and safety planning with women who are victims of violence in an intimate relationship; 2) risk identification with women across culture; immigrant and refugee women; older women; sex workers; younger women; women with disabilities; lesbian, bisexual, and queer women; and trans people; and 3) resources available to survivors of woman abuse.  The guide was created by the Community Coordination for Women’s Safety and the Ending Violence Association of BC.

Serving Sexual Violence Survivors with Disabilities
This 2015 paper discusses the policies, outreach, welcoming environments, ensuring access, attitudinal access, communication access, collaboration, training, and sustainability for survivors with disabilities. It was created for rural advocates at dual and multiservice agencies to help with overcoming barriers to trauma-informed care for this group of survivors.

The Effect of Traumatic Brain Injury on the Health of Homeless People
This research article examines the lifetime prevalence rate of traumatic brain injury, and its association with other health conditions (e.g., substance abuse issues), among homeless men and women in Toronto, ON. Results indicated that 53% of homeless people who participated in the study had a traumatic brain injury with 12% having a moderate or severe injury. Furthermore, 70% of the participants experienced their first traumatic brain injury before the onset of homelessness. A history of traumatic brain injury was also associated with an increased likelihood of seizures, mental health problems, drug problems, and poorer physical health and mental health status.

Urban Aboriginal Persons with Disabilities: Triple Jeopardy!
This resource describes a two-year study that examined the challenges identified by First Nations urban disAbled persons and identified practical solutions to overcome these obstacles. Aboriginal people with disAbilities were asked to participate in focus groups to describe their personal accounts of individual and collective experiences related to being an Aboriginal person with a physical disAbility. A second part of the research study was involved hearing from service providers (e.g., healthcare professionals, social workers, trainers) to learn of their experiences and perspectives with regard to urban Aboriginal persons with disAbilities living in Regina, SK. This resource also discusses Hope’s story, a First Nations woman with disAbilities. Major barriers experienced by Aboriginal persons with disAbilities are highlighted and practical solutions to overcome these barriers are recommended.

Violence and Accessibility: Increasing Safety for Women with Disabilities On Campus
This 2012 Violence and Accessibility report was developed by Springtide Resources with the purpose of initiating conversations among university and college administrators, faculty and staff about the experiences of women with disAbilities on campus. Seventeen young women with disAbilities, who attended or were currently attending a college or university, participated in focus groups to discuss their experience with violence on campus and the barriers they faced when accessing services. These women provided several recommendations, aimed at college and university services, VAW organizations in the communities, and fellow students, for preventing violence on campus, improving accessibility to supports and services, promoting open discussions, and enhancing campus safety.

Violence Against Women with Disabilities – Violence Prevention Review
The Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) commissioned the Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research to conduct a research review on violence against women with disAbilities in order to inform the CWF on the key issues and trends related to violence against women with disAbilities in Canada and assist them in developing a long-term strategy for preventing violence against women. This 2011 report describes women with disAbilities and violence against women in Canada. The report outlines recent legislative changes regarding persons with disAbilities and initiatives to address legislation. Key barriers and initiatives addressing the needs of women with disAbilities who are experiencing violence are highlighted such as barriers to disclosure of abuse; difficulties accessing the justice system; the absence of supports and health care intervention; the lack of training for professionals; the lack of training around violence prevention, rights education, and self-advocacy for women with disAbilities; and the lack of funding and resources. The report describes a profile of funders for violence against women with disAbilities initiatives and provides recommendations around creating sustainable and long-term programs; mapping out supportive service agencies; developing best practice tools to educate, train, and support women with disAbilities and guide the work of professionals in the violence intervention sector; and developing a national strategy to address violence against women with disAbilities.

Violence Against Women with DisAbilities and Deaf Women: An Overview
Learning Network Brief 12
Fran Odette & Doris Rajan (2013).  This paper discusses violence against women with disAbilities and Deaf women.  Topics include the myths and realities of violence against women with Disabilities and Deaf women; who perpetrates abuse and violence; types of violence experienced; barriers to reporting and accessing resources; and considerations for helping women with disAbilities who are experiencing violence.  Click for Plain Text version.

Voices Against Violence – Women With Disabilities Victoria (Australia)
Women With Disabilities Victoria conducted a research project, The Voices Against Violence Research Project, that investigated the circumstances of women with disabilities of any kind who have experienced violence.  The project resulted in seven papers outlining current issues in understanding and responding to violence against women with disabilities; a review of the legislative protections available to women with disabilities in Victoria who have experienced violence; a review of the Office of the Public Advocate’s (OPA) records of violence against women with disabilities; interviews with staff and volunteers from OPA’s major program areas; in-depth interviews with women with disabilities who have experienced violence; consultations with women with disabilities; and engaging with the disability, family violence, sexual assault, legal and other service sectors.  Here are the links to the seven papers that came out of the project:

  1. Voices Against Violence Paper One Executive Summary
  2. Voices Against Violence Paper Two Current Issues in Understanding and Responding to Violence Against Women with Disabilities
  3. Voices Against Violence Paper Three A Review of the Legislative Protections Available to Women with Disabilities who have Experienced Violence in Victoria
  4. Voices Against Violence Paper Four A Review of the Public Advocate's Records on Violence Against Women with Disabilities
  5. Voices Against Violence Paper Five Interviews with Staff and Volunteers from the Office of the Public Advocate
  6. Voices Against Violence Paper Six Hearing from Women with Disabilities
  7. Voices Against Violence Paper Seven Easy English Summary

Violence Against Women with DisAbilities and Deaf Women: Infographic
The Learning Network created an infographic in conjunction with the Issue 7: Violence Against Women with DisAbilities and Deaf Women newsletter.  Each statistic is a clickable link to the original source of information.

We Can Tell and We Will!
The Disabled Women’s Network of Canada (DAWN-RAFH Canada) launched a campaign in 2014 featuring a public service announcement based on the D.A.I. Supreme Court case that recognizes the right of people with disabilities to be believed when they report sexual assault and abuse.  The campaign features brief videos, definitions, a resource list of crisis hotlines, and fact sheets on information for women with disabilities about identifying and reporting abuse.

We Can Tell and We Will! PSA
This Public Service Announcement is part of the “We Can Tell and We Will” campaign developed by the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada / Réseau d’action des femmes handicapées (DAWN-RAFH Canada). The campaign is aimed at informing women with disabilities and Deaf women about their right to report abuse and to have their abusers tried in court.

Women living with disabilities and their experiences and issues related to the context and complexities of leaving abusive situation
This research study talked with women in Canada who self-defined as having a disability about their experiences with violence and abuse in terms of where the abuse took place, the different forms of abuse experienced, and the complexities associated with leaving the abusive situation.  Recommendations for best practices and change were provided.  You can view the abstract for free online. You will have to purchase the article or have a membership to gain full access.

World Report on Disability
This 2011 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) provides a global picture of disAbility. Topics on prevalence, health care, rehabilitation, assistance and support, enabling environments, education, and work and employment are discussed. The report provides recommendations to assist stakeholders in overcoming the barriers experienced by people with disAbilities.