Communicare Issue #1 – Violence Against Women with Disabilities & Deaf Women


COMMUNICARE  [the Latin word for impart, share and make known]“MANY VOICES, MANY PATHS”
The DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada received support for National Victims of Crime AwarenessWeek, April 10 to 16, 2011, from the Department of Justice. This funding has helped us to bring this important information to you, so that you can stop crime by recognizing abuse and learning practical tips for leaving dangerous situations. Recently, through funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF), DAWN had the opportunity to travel around the country to hear many voices by speaking directly to a wide variety of women with different types of disabilities—intellectual, mental health and episodic, such as HIV and MS—from diverse backgrounds (including ethno-racial, immigrant, Francophone and First Nations/Métis) and regions (B.C., Quebec, Ontario and the Prairies).Although the women that we spoke to had experienced abuse in their lives, they have fought hard to regain their dignity and work towards a healthier life. They shared success stories and ideas about the many paths that are needed to combat and heal from violent crime

Women themselves don’t know much about violence. Because of that, it is hard for them to denounce violence and abuse.
—Woman with a disability at a CWF focus group The first step is to be able to identify the abuse in our lives.

Physical Force
If you are hit, kicked, slapped, punched or beaten, you are being physically abused. If a person who is supposed to be providing care for you uses physical force while feeding, dressing or bathing you, you are being abused by your caregiver.

Sexual Violence
If you are raped or forced to engage in any sexual behaviour that you do not want, even by your partner, boyfriend or husband, you are being sexually abused. You may experience unwanted sexual actions by a caregiver. For example, if your caregiver touches you sexually during your bathing or toilet routine, that is abuse.

Caregiver Neglect
Some women have been left in soiled or wet clothing or bed sheets for long periods of time. Others reported being left on the toilet or in the bath for too long. If you are denied assistance to use the washroom, get out of bed, have food or be bathed, it is unacceptable, and it is abuse.

Verbal Abuse and Threats
If anyone—an attendant, support worker, “friend” or family member—continually tells you that you are incapable of doing anything meaningful with your life because of your disability, that is abusive. If you experience disrespectful treatment from shelter workers, social workers, medical staff or any other person that is being paid to help you, it is abuse. It is abuse when someone threatens to:

  • Physically or sexually harm you
  • Leave you without being fed or cared for
  • Leave and take the children
  • Put you in an institution

Threats are abuse.

Financial Abuse
If someone tries to control or use your money against your wishes or without your consent, that is abuse.

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Classism as Abuse
Discrimination is even worse when, as women with disabilities and Deaf women, we also belong to another group that faces barriers. When someone says bad things to you or treats you badly because you are young, old, a racial minority, gay or lesbian or because you’re poor, that is abuse.

Cyberbullying is a new form of abuse. Through e-mail, Internet chat rooms and electronic gadgets like cellphone cameras,  cyber bullies spread hurtful images and/ or messages.

If you are in immediate danger, dial 911 to call the police.

Please go to the DAWN Canada website ( for information on crisis lines, steps on getting help and to find out how to develop an emergency plan. Violence and abuse are crimes punishable by law. For more information, contact DAWN Canada at

Anne K. Abbott is a Toronto-based artist whose passion for social justice and reform is reflected in her artwork. Please visit for more information about Anne.


Communicare Poster - Ending Violence in Our Lives

Communicare Poster – Ending Violence in Our Lives


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