Giving Compass' Take:
- Angela Kim explains how institutional ableism prevents people with disabilities from accessing resources to help them escape domestic violence.
- What role can you play in making sure services, including domestic violence resources, are accessible for everyone?
- Read lessons for philanthropy in disability inclusion work.
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I discovered I had a disability before I realized I was in an abusive relationship, but the two were interwoven in my life for many years.
My disability, obsessive-compulsive disorder, made it difficult to cope with my daily life, let alone navigate the violent relationship I was in. My habits and compulsions were gradually consuming all my time and energy. But my relationship made it much more difficult to seek treatment and stay on life-changing medications.
Since leaving the relationship and becoming an advocate for others in similar situations, I’ve discovered that, although rarely talked about, disability and domestic violence often intersect. I was far from alone.
I’m sharing my story in the hopes I can help others understand the connections between disability and domestic violence, but as a journalist, I also wanted to talk with experts in the field and those who have had similar experiences to mine.
One in four women will experience domestic violence at the hands of a romantic or sexual partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, one in four adults in the U.S. lives with a disability. Between these two statistics is an overlap so large it demands attention. Yet, there is little discussion or awareness that domestic violence and disability often intersect. In fact, studies from the American Psychological Association show that disabled people are twice as likely to experience domestic violence than nondisabled people, and that women with disabilities have a 40% greater chance of experiencing domestic violence than women without disabilities. Given this alarming reality, some domestic violence and disability rights advocates are calling for prioritization of disabled survivors in anti-violence work. This is particularly important, because even if someone doesn’t have a disability initially, domestic violence can cause both temporary and long-term physical or mental health disabilities.
For one, there are very few agencies with staff specifically trained in how to handle and support survivors with disabilities, says Rachel McCallum, a deaf disability justice advocate diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma. In her work auditing trainings in social workspaces, she quickly noticed that inclusivity and intake trainings rarely mentioned disability, deferring instead to more common modules on race and gender. Furthermore, in California, only a handful of shelters specifically cater to survivors with disabilities, and most lack accessible facilities.
The inaccessibility of resources makes survivors with disabilities more vulnerable to abusers and often extends the duration of the abuse—in some cases, starting from childhood. People with limited communication abilities or cognitive disabilities may find it more difficult to report abuse effectively to authorities. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 70% to 85% of cases of abuse against disabled people go unreported.
Read the full article about disabilities and domestic violence by Angela Kim at YES! Magazine.