Women with disabilities face elevated risk of abuse

Pat Kelln, spokesperson for Pacific Disabled Women's Network and expert on disability services is working to fill gaps in services that she says are absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of women with disabilities.

Pat Kelln, spokesperson for Pacific Disabled Women’s Network and expert on disability services is working to fill gaps in services that she says are absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of women with disabilities. (Ash Kelly)

Sadly, women with disabilities are far more likely to experience abuse than able bodied women and more likely to experience the most severe and prolonged forms of abuse.

In a survey conducted by the Disabled Women’s Network of Canada, 40 per cent of respondents with a disability reported having experienced violent abuse.One Ottawa-based study showed that women with activity limitations were 20 per cent more likely to experience spousal abuse. Another study showed that women with disabilities were four times as likely to experience sexual abuse as able bodied women.

Many factors contribute to the elevated risk level. People with disabilities are more likely to be socially isolated due to cognitive, developmental or mobility limitations. Those with severe disabilities often rely on caregivers for the necessities of life, including intimate personal care and decision making, leaving them vulnerable to dangerous power imbalances.

Pat Kelln, a spokesperson for Pacific DAWN, is working to develop resources for women with disabilities and pushing the government to make changes to policies and protect disabled women from abuse. In this radio-style documentary, she is joined by two other women who generously share their experiences with abuse in the hopes of inspiring other victims of abuse to come forward and and utilize the resources available to them in their communities.

Despite the heavy subject matter, this is a story of hope and of a community banding together to fill gaps in services where they see a need.


(Painting, Hope by George Frederic Watts)

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