Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 177–189 | Cite as

Vulnerabilities for Abuse Among Women with Disabilities

  • Margaret A. Nosek
  • Catherine Clubb Foley
  • Rosemary B. Hughes
  • Carol A. Howland
Article

Abstract

Research findings reveal that women with disabilities experience rates of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that are comparable to, if not greater than, women without disabilities. Disability specialists propose that women with disabilities experience specific vulnerabilities to abuse. The question in the present study was, “What types of abuse experienced by women with physical disabilities are directly related to their disability?” Of the 504 women with disabilities who responded to a questionnaire assessing sexuality and relationships, 181 of the women completed open-ended questions about abuse. Using qualitative techniques, we analyzed their responses and identified disability-specific types of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Certain disability-related settings increased vulnerability for abuse. The need for personal assistance with daily living created additional vulnerability. We conclude that disability is not a protective factor against abuse; indeed, it often serves to reduce a woman's emotional and physical defenses. These findings indicate a need for the development of disability-sensitive abuse screening instruments, and development and testing of interventions to assist women with disabilities in recognizing abuse, protecting themselves in abusive situations, and removing themselves from potentially abusive relationships and situations.

women disability abuse domestic violence qualitative research 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Andrews, A.B., & Veronen, L.J. (1993). Sexual assault and people with disabilities. Special issue: Sexuality and disabilities: A guide for human service practitioners. Journal of Social Work and Human Sexuality, 8(2), 137-159.Google Scholar
  2. Belsky, J. (1980). Child maltreatment: An ecological integration. American Psychologist, 35(4), 320-335.Google Scholar
  3. Claussen, A.H., & Crittenden, P.M. (1991). Physical and psychological maltreatment: Relations among types of maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 15, 5-18.Google Scholar
  4. Cole, S.S. (1984). Facing the challenges of sexual abuse in persons with disabilities. Sexuality and Disability, 7(3/4), 71-88.Google Scholar
  5. Danek, M.M. (1992). The status of women with disabilities revisited. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 23(4), 7-13.Google Scholar
  6. Farmer, A., & Tiefenthaler, J. (1996). Domestic violence: The value of services as signals. American Economic Review, 86(2), 274-279.Google Scholar
  7. Fine, M., & Asch, A. (Eds.) (1988). Women with disabilities: Essays in psychology, culture, and politics. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Finkelhor, D., & Korbin, J. (1988). Child abuse as an international issue. Child Abuse & Neglect, 12, 3-23.Google Scholar
  9. Glaser, B.G., & Strauss, A.L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  10. Howland, C.A., Nosek, M.A., & Young, M.E. (2001). Programs delivering abuse intervention services to women with disabilities. CROWD: Houston.Google Scholar
  11. McFarlane, J., Hughes, R.B., Nosek, M.A., Groff, J.Y., Swedlund, N., & Mullen, P.D. (2001). Abuse Assessment Screen-Disability (AAS-D): Measuring frequency, type, and perpetrator of abuse toward women with physical disabilities. Journal of Women's Health and Gender Based Medicine, 10(9).Google Scholar
  12. Murphy, P.A. (1993). Making the connections: Women, work, and abuse. Orlando, FL: Paul M. Deutsch Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  13. Murphy, P.A. (1992). Taking an abuse history in the initial evaluation. NARPPS, 7(5), 187-190.Google Scholar
  14. Nosek, M.A. (1995). Sexual abuse of women with physical disabilities. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: State of the Art Reviews, 9(2), 487-502.Google Scholar
  15. Nosek, M.A. (1996). Sexual abuse of women with physical disabilities. In D.M. Krotoski, M. A. Nosek, & M. A. Turk (Eds.), Women with physical disabilities: Achieving and maintaining health and well-being (pp. 153-173). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  16. Nosek, M.A., Howland, C.A., & Young, M.E. (1997). Abuse of women with disabilities: Policy implications. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 8(1-2), 157-176.Google Scholar
  17. Rutgers University, Bureau of Economic Research, and The World Institute on Disability (n.d.). Towards an understanding of the demand for personal assistance. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers.Google Scholar
  18. Schaller, J., & Fieberg J.L. (1998). Issues of abuse for women with disabilities and implications for rehabilitation counseling. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 29(2): 9-17.Google Scholar
  19. Soeken, K., McFarlane, J., Parker, B., & Campbell, J.C. (1997). The abuse assessment screen: A clinical instrument to measure frequency, severity and perpetrator of abuse against women. In Soeken, K., McFarlane, J., Parker, B., & Campbell, J.C. Beyond diagnosis: Health care advocacy for battered women and their children. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1989). Labor force status and other characteristics of persons with a work disability: 1981 to 1988 (Current Population Reports Series P-23, No. 160). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  21. Womendez, C., & Schneiderman, K. (1991). Escaping from abuse: Unique issues for women with disabilities. Sexuality and Disability, 9(3), 273-280.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret A. Nosek
    • 1
  • Catherine Clubb Foley
    • 1
  • Rosemary B. Hughes
    • 1
  • Carol A. Howland
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Research on Women with Disabilities, Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationBaylor College of MedicineHouston

Personalised recommendations