Violence Against Women with Disabilities

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If violence against women and children wasn’t bad enough, what thought and consideration do we give women who also have a disability, whether that be physical or mental?

The unfortunate truth is, women with disabilities experience discrimination on two fronts. Firstly, because they are female. While in today’s society women should enjoy equal status, it’s usually the case that some people see women as second-class citizens, in particular the opposite sex. Secondly, people often see someone in a wheelchair as a nuisance, and someone with a mental difficulty is considered an inconvenience. When you combine all these things together, the result is all too often resentment. Unsympathetic people might often say “why should we care about a woman who has these difficulties?”

If this attitude isn’t bad enough, too often does resentment turn to anger and violence, with the female victim suffering immeasurably. What are the most common factors attributed to violence against women with disabilities?

Well, firstly, there’s the classic case of a woman who is housebound due to a disability or long-term illness. If the carer is male, such as a spouse or sibling, it’s quite common for that man to lose interest in caring after a while. Perhaps the man feels he is missing out on his life being tied down, or simply doesn’t have a lot of patience. The contributing factor isn’t always apparent or the same from case to case, but the end result is quite often the same. A lack of patience turns to frustration, which then manifests itself in violence. Of course, it’s not always men who are the perpetrators, but it’s usually the case. Female carers seem to have much more patience and have an “inbuilt” capacity for compassion that men perhaps lack in many cases.

We mentioned frustration. Frustration is often the cause of violence in many cases, and not just against women with disabilities. Perhaps the disabled person has difficulty dressing or feeding themselves, or perhaps they are doubly incontinent. It takes a special person to deal with these kinds of issues day-in-day-out. Those who aren’t specifically trained to deal with this situation may feel out of their depth and lash out. Similarly, they might not understand why the disabled person is acting that way, and can’t understand they can’t help their actions. Unfortunately, frustration is quite often a catalyst for violence, and of course, the woman involved will have no way of fighting back or defending herself.

The other factor that is, unfortunately, rife in today’s society is pure discrimination. Non-disabled people, both men and women, don’t have time to consider the needs of women who are disabled. They might deliberately try to make their lives difficult or a misery, sometimes subconsciously without realizing they are doing it, or just being ignorant. Whether the result is name-calling from across the street, deliberately refusing to give up a seat on a train or bus, or not holding a door open, it’s still a form of discrimination. What does this have to do with violence you may be wondering? Well, violence isn’t always physical. Much of the harm done to society’s disabled women comes in the form of psychological abuse. Ill-treatment in this form can be just as damaging as physical violence.

Fortunately, changes in people’s thinking regarding the equality of sexes is slowly changing attitudes, and women with disabilities are beginning to command more compassion than before. However, there’s always more that we can do, and there are plenty of disabled women around the world who are still expected to work and look after the family, even when their condition should really allow them better treatment.


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