Access to Specialised Victim Support Services for Women with Disabilities who have experienced Violence
This research investigated violence against disabled women and their access to specialised women’s support services. Funded through the European Commission’s Daphne III programme and with international leadership from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, the project ran from 2013 to 2015 in four countries:
- Austria, (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute)
- Germany (University of Giessen)
- Iceland (University of Iceland)
- United Kingdom (University of Leeds and University of Glasgow)
Principal Investigators: Sarah Woodin (University of Leeds) and Sonali Shah (Lord Kelvin Adams Smith Senior Research Fellow at Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research at Glasgow University)
About the research
There are several elements, which include:
- Assessment of the legal and policy framework
- Generation of extensive new data from disabled or Deaf women (through focus group discussions, in-depth-interviews) and service providers (online-survey, interviews with staff members), and
- Development of good practice examples and recommendations.
187 disabled women from the four countries took part (106 women in focus groups and 81 women in individual interviews). They included women with mobility or sensory impairments, women with intellectual impairments, women with mental health conditions and women with multiple impairments.
Specialised service providers assisting women who have experienced violence also took part in this study (there were in total 602 responses to an online survey and 54 individual interviews with representatives from services). However, the numbers are only provided here as an indication of the scale of the research. The focus was on exploring barriers and issues in depth rather than on recruiting statistically representative samples.
The Problem of Violence against Disabled Women
Disabled women experience a very wide range of types of violence. They report the same types of violence as non-disabled women, but also abuse that is specific to disabled people, and that takes place in a wider range of places and is enacted by more kinds of perpetrators.
Domestic violence is substantial and highly damaging for disabled women, but violence also encompasses institutional violence from carers, where women live in residential homes or from assistants where they receive help to live in their own homes. ‘Hate’ violence and crime was also described, where women are abused on the basis of who they are seen to be. Violence is often directed towards perceived areas of weakness, such as attacks that focus on women’s impairments, often arising or increasing at the onset of impairment and at times when women need more help, such as during pregnancy and childbirth or if their residency status is uncertain.
Although violence is most prevalent for young adult women, participants report experiencing violence at all stages of the life course and sometimes in many different settings.
Support to Counter Violence
A formidable array of barriers are identified by disabled women in relation to securing assistance and achieving a violence-free life. At a micro, individual level, the active isolation of women by perpetrators, combined with the inaccessibility of services and a lack of knowledge and capacity to help, all result in keeping disabled women away from support services. Macro-level systemic barriers include the ways that funding and administrative regimes combine to make movement away from repeat violence situations very difficult.
The project highlighted the dynamics of this pressing social problem and setting out the steps that need to be taken to prevent and address this abuse. Examples of good practice and innovation in each of the countries were also documented.
International Project Findings and Publications
The main project website is maintained by the international project co-ordinator, the Ludwig Bolzmann Institute, Austria