Dependence, Violence, and Neglect in Women with Disabilities

April 2019

Individuals with disabilities each live within their own unique circumstances, thus implying that their levels of reliance on others also vary accordingly. For example, some individuals with disabilities may function completely independently, some may live semi-independently (i.e., an individual with a visual or hearing impairment), and some may exclusively rely on personal care assistants to complete ADLs (i.e., an individual with total paralysis or a severe intellectual disability). These differences in dependence may potentially put an individual at elevated risk of sexual violence and neglect; those who retain a significant level of autonomy may rely very little on others to complete daily activities, while those with comparatively less mobility may depend on care assistants and thus be more vulnerable to abuse. The intersection between disability, sex, and level of dependence may have significant implications for disability policy, methods of identifying victims of violence, and services available to survivors of neglect and sexual abuse. This study explores the relationship between the need for assistance on various tasks and experiences of sexual violence reported by women with physical disabilities and motor impairments.