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Survivors with Disabilities

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and to live a life free from violence. If you are a survivor with a disability, RISE Services are available to you.


The Equal Rights Center offers four keys ways that disability intersects with domestic violence and sexual assault/ abuse:

  1. Abuse can cause temporary or permanent disability.
  2. People with disabilities experience higher rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse.
  3. Violence, assault, and abuse against people with disabilities often takes on non-traditional forms.
  4. People with disabilities face additional barriers when seeking help.

Click to learn more about abuse in disability communities.

IS IT MY FAULT?

Whether you are a survivor of sexual assault or intimate partner violence, it’s not your fault. No one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted or abused. Your disability does not change that fact. You deserve to be treated with love and respect.

COMMON FEELINGS

Many survivors with disabilities won't seek help or support because they are concerned that their disability or care needs can impede their access to service. RISE strives to make our services accessible to survivors with disabilities and their families. We want you to feel safe and comfortable seeking help and services after a traumatic event.

Sexual assault, sexual abuse, and intimate-partner violence are traumatic experiences. Following an attack, you may have physical pain, injuries, and strong emotional reactions.

You may experience many different feelings, such as self-blame, shame, anger, fear, guilt, or grief. You may find you’re unable to concentrate or focus because you “can’t stop” thinking about what happened. You may also experience flashbacks that make you feel nervous, angry or afraid.

All these feelings are perfectly normal reactions. RISE offers individual and group counseling and a 24-hour toll-free hotline 855-886-RISE (7473) for survivors who are interested in seeking confidential support.

THE FIRST STEP TO HEALING

If you have been injured due to a recent incident of intimate partner violence or sexual assault, seeking health care may be the first step. Please see our resource page for local health care providers.

SEXUAL AND INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE AND INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

You may have been brought up with feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy. You may tell yourself the abuse isn't “that bad” or that you deserve the abuse. But no one ever deserves to be abused. It is important to remember that anyone can be a survivor or a perpetrator of intimate partner violence. You may worry that you will not be believed or treated with the same respect as other survivors. It is important to remember that intimate partner violence is not okay in any relationship.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, survivors with disabilities often experience non-traditional forms of abuse including:

  • Telling you that you “aren’t allowed” to have a pain flare-up.
  • Stealing or withholding Social Security Disability checks.
  • Telling you that you’re a bad parent or can’t be a parent because of your disability.
  • Invalidating or minimizing a disability with claims that you’re “faking it.”
  • Using a disability in an effort to shame or humiliate you.
  • Refusing to help you complete necessary life tasks, including using the bathroom or dispensing medication. Withholding or threatening to withhold medication, or intentionally giving you incorrect doses by over-medicating or mixing medications in a dangerous or non-prescribed way.
  • Sexual activity if your disability makes you incapable of giving consent.
  • Withholding, damaging, or destroying assistive devices, such as wheelchairs.
  • Preventing you from seeing a doctor.
  • Threatening to “out” your disability to others if it’s non-visible or carries social stigma.
  • Harming or threatening to harm your service animal.
  • Using your disability to justify their abusive behavior.

Works Cited:

“Abuse in Disability Communities” National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2021, https://www.thehotline.org/resources/abuse-in-disability-communities/.

WHAT IS SAFETY PLANNING?

Safety planning is brainstorming ways to stay safe and also reduce the risk of future harm. Sometimes safety planning can seem like an overwhelming task. Below are some pointers and tips from RAINN to consider when making a plan to keep you safe. Remember, you are the expert in your life so if any of the recommendations don’t seem safe in your relationship—trust your instincts. Think of ways you have kept yourself safe in the past and consider new ways that feel right to you.

  • Become familiar with safe places. Learn more about safe places near you such as a local domestic violence shelter or a family member’s house. Learn the routes and commit them to memory.
  • Create a code word. It might be a code between you and your children that means “get out,” or with your support network that means “I need help.”
  • Keep computer and phone safety in mind. If you think someone might be monitoring your computer or phone use, consider regularly clearing your history and cookies. You could also use a different computer or phone at a friend’s house or a public library.
  • Lean on a support network. Having someone you can reach out to for support can be an important part of staying safe and recovering. Find someone you trust who could respond to a crisis if you needed their help.
  • Prepare an excuse. Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times or for existing situations that might become dangerous. Have these on hand in case you need to get away quickly.
  • Stay safe at home. If the person hurting you is in your home, you can take steps to feel safer. Try hanging bells or a noisemaker on your door to scare the person hurting you away, or sleep in public spaces like the living room. If possible, keep the doors inside your house locked or put something heavy in front of them. If you’re protecting yourself from someone who does not live with you, keep all the doors locked when you’re not using them, and install an outside lighting system with motion detectors. Change the locks if possible.
  • Prepare for an exit. Collect information regarding medications/prescriptions, names and phone numbers of health agencies, social workers, or other disability service providers, special disability-related transit cards

Works Cited:

“Safety Planning” RAINN, 2021, https://www.rainn.org/articles/safety-planning#:~:text=Safety%20planning%20is%20about%20brainstorming,decisions%20about%20your%20next%20steps.


WHO PERPETRATES HARM?

ANYONE can be a perpetrator of sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence. No matter who an attacker is, sexual assault/abuse and intimate partner violence are serious crimes. Sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence can be perpetrated by someone you know, a significant other, a family member, a caretaker, or a stranger.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT AND RESOURCES

RISE is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides crisis intervention and treatment services to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence and their loved ones. All services are provided confidentially, at low or no cost, to anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability or citizenship status. All crisis services are available in Spanish and English.