Disabilities and Abuse
A review by Public Health England in 2015 confirmed that people with disabilities are more vulnerable to domestic violence, experience domestic abuse for longer periods of time, and experience more severe and frequent abuse than non-disabled people.
Abuse can also happen when someone withholds, destroys or manipulates medical equipment, access to communication, medication, personal care, meals and transportation.
You may have particular concerns about moving out of your home: it may have been specially adapted for you. Perhaps a care package has been organised and you are worried that you will lose your current level of independence if you are forced to move elsewhere.
If you are disabled, your abuser may also be your carer, or your personal assistant and you may be reliant on him/her for personal care or mobility. You can be subject to physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence in any or all of the ways that non-disabled women are abused, but in addition you may experience the following forms of abusive behaviour:
Your abuser may withhold care from you or undertake it neglectfully or abusively.
Your abuser may remove mobility or sensory devices that you need for independence.
Your abuser may be claiming state benefits in order to care for you – enabling him to control your finances more effectively.
Your abuser may use your disability to taunt or degrade you.
If you are experiencing domestic violence you may find it harder to protect yourself or to access sources of help. You may be reluctant to report domestic violence from a partner whose care you depend on:
You may be more physically vulnerable than a non-disabled woman.
You may be less able to remove yourself from an abusive situation.
You may be socially isolated both because of your disability and as a result of your abuser’s control of your social relationships.
You may find it harder to disclose abuse because you have no opportunity to see health or social care professionals without your abuser being present.
As a disabled woman, you may be regarded as a “vulnerable adult”, and in this case, the multi-agency Policies and Procedures for the safeguarding and protection of vulnerable adults will apply. All areas have had to develop these policies and procedures following on from the publication of the Government’s No Secrets guidance (see further information below). The criteria for being defined as a “vulnerable adult” vary from area to area – but if you do fit the criteria set in your area, than all agencies (both statutory and voluntary) have to follow these procedures.
You may be reluctant to report domestic abuse if you do not feel confident you will be believed or that your concerns will be taken seriously. You may also think that there is little that anyone can do, and nowhere for you to go. If you decide you want to leave your abuser, refuge-based support and other domestic violence services may not always be appropriate. Some refuge accommodation may not be accessible, and you may need help with personal care or other needs (such as sign language interpreters or transport).
If you are deaf or can’t verbally communicate
You can register with the emergencysms service https://www.emergencysms.net/ . Text REGISTER to 999. You will get a text which tells you what to do next. Do this when it is safe so you can text when you are in danger.
No Secrets Guidance
‘No Secrets’ was repealed by the Care Act 2014 on 1 April 2015. The act contains replacement and mandatory requirements around adult safeguarding. See chapter 14 of ‘Care and Support Statutory Guidance’
‘No Secrets’ sets out a code of practice for the protection of vulnerable adults.
It explains how commissioners and providers of health and social care services should work together to produce and implement local policies and procedures. They should collaborate with the public, voluntary and private sectors and they should also consult service users, their carers and representative groups. Local authority social services departments should co-ordinate the development of policies and procedures.
There is help and support available for any person experiencing domestic abuse. Many domestic abuse services are able to support disabled women and have outreach services or independent advocacy services which can help you. If you need safe accommodation many refuges now have full wheelchair access, and workers who can assist women and children who have special needs such as hearing or visual impairments, and some Women’s Aid organisations offer BSL interpreters.
The Ann Craft Trust (ACT) has produced a useful directory for support and advice for those with disabilities.
SMS to the emergency services
The emergencySMS service lets deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired people in the UK send an SMS text message to the UK 999 service where it will be passed to the police, ambulance, fire rescue, or coastguard.
Simply by sending an SMS message to 999 you can call for help and the emergency services will be able to reply to you.
You will need to register your mobile phone before using the emergencySMS service, click on the Registering your phone link for more information.