Disabled people and domestic abuse spotlight

Guidance and resources for professionals working with deaf and disabled victims of domestic abuse. Part of our 2016–2019 Spotlights series that shone a light on the hidden victims of domestic abuse.

Disabled people experience higher rates of domestic abuse than non-disabled people.

Disabled women are twice as likely to experience abuse than non-disabled women, and disabled people are more likely to experience abuse from an adult family member compared to non-disabled people (14% vs 6%). Studies have shown that disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse and also twice as likely to suffer assault and rape. Yet our Marac data shows that nationally only 3.9% of referrals were for disabled victims, significantly lower than our recommendation of 16% or higher Our research also shows low referral rates for disabled people into domestic abuse services.

In the second of our Spotlights series, in March 2017, we focused on the challenges facing professionals working with disabled people experiencing domestic abuse. What can we do to enable disabled people’s access to domestic abuse support and to Marac? How can we make sure they become – and stay – safe?

About SafeLives’ Spotlights series

Our 2016–2019 Spotlights series shone a light on hidden victims of domestic abuse. We explored the experiences of victim groups who face additional barriers to accessing support, and can feel ‘hidden’ from services. Discover insight from survivors, practitioners, academics and other experts, alongside our own research and data.

I didn't realise I was being abused. I thought it was normal. It wasn't until later that it got worse and worse and the abuse increased and it was verbal, physical, sexual and he demanded money from me and so on, you know. I was just overwhelmed and I just wanted it to stop and I wanted it to stop then and now... he threatened me with a gun and I think that's when I finally realised that absolutely that was not acceptable and I needed to protect my children and me.

I told the police. To communicate with the police it was really difficult for me and when I met them I didn't have an interpreter so we'd have to write things down but I couldn't make a statement straightaway because there wasn't an interpreter there. But when I contacted DeafHope they had everything... I would say to deaf women don't hide, tell your story, come out, tell the truth, tell people what's happening, and get support and make sure you're safe, and be brave.

Rosie*, deaf survivor helped by the DeafHope (now SignHealth) service

Facts and figures

  • Facts and figures
    3.3 years

    is the average time disabled clients experience domestic abuse before accessing support (compared to 2.2 years for non-disabled clients)

  • Facts and figures

    of disabled clients who are experiencing domestic abuse have previously planned or attempted suicide

  • Facts and figures

    of disabled people suffer abuse from a current partner compared to 28% of non-disabled victims

Disabled Survivors Too

Read the full findings in our policy report Disabled Survivors Too, exploring the unmet needs of disabled victims, and proposing recommendations
for both practitioners and policymakers.

Read the report

Resources and guidance

Blogs, webinars and podcast episodes

Disability and domestic violence

Dr Justin Varney talks about domestic abuse in the lives of people living with impairments, and the barriers to support and justice.

Survivor stories

We were delighted to work with SignHealth, the UK’s only sign-language based domestic abuse service, as part of this spotlight. We spoke to some of the brave women they have supported about their experiences of domestic abuse and disability. You can watch their interviews via the links below – all names have been changed.

Listen: Action planning for disabled people experiencing domestic abuse

Listen: Holistic support for people with learning disabilities experiencing domestic abuse

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