Color & Control:

Our Hidden Reality – Conjugal Violence against Women with DisAbilities


This post is based on DAWN-RAFH Canada’s statement delivered by National Director, Bonnie Brayton on December 6, 2011 in Montreal, QC in commemoration of the National Day of Action and Remembrance on Violence Against Women.

More than 20 years after the massacre of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal, violence against women in Canada continues to be an on-going issue. For women with disabilities, it is even more intensified and occurs in a number of different forms. One of these is conjugal or spousal violence.

Because of stereotypes about women with disabilities, conjugal violence against women with disAbilities often remains invisible because people assume that women with disAbilities do not even have intimate partners[i]. In reality though, women with disabilities have a 50% to 100% increased risk of living with conjugal violence than women without disabilities[ii]. Furthermore, male partners of women with disAbilities are 2.5 times more likely to behave in ways that dominate their partner and 1.5 times more likely to behave in ways that sexually dominate their partner than male partners of non-disabled women[iii].

Why is it so difficult for women with disabilities to escape this situation?

First of all, it is often more difficult for women with disAbilities to get in contact with shelters, to access information on available services, and even to get transportation. As well, women fear that they will risk losing their financial security, home, and social status. They also fear that they could be institutionalized.

It may take a women with a disability more time to consider actually leaving an abusive partner since she has to figure out how she will find accessible housing, support services at home and an interpreter if she needs one.

Women with disabilities may also fear that they will not be believed or perceived as credible by police and by the courts. They may also think that appropriate services are not even available.

In cases where acts of violence are committed by attendants, family members and/or friends, women think that the problem can be solved by the social service system. These acts are not considered crimes to be solved through the police or justice system.

And so we must BREAK THE SILENCE on violence against women with disabilities … Support us!  See us ! AND believe us!
[i] Barnett, O., Miller-Perrin, C. L., & Perrin, R. D. (2005). Family violence across the lifespan: An introduction (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (pp. 353-354)

[ii] Perreault, S. (2009), Criminal Victimization and Health: A Profile of Victimization Among Persons with Activity Limitations or Other Health Problems. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, p.10.

[iii] Brownridge, D.A. (2006) ”Partner violence against women with disabilities: prevalence, risk, and explanations”, Violence Against Women, 12 (9), p. 818.

DAWN-RAFH Canada logo

DAWN-RAFH Canada logo


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