How Domestic Violence Can Be Different for People with Disabilities

Domestic violence affects people across all demographics. But when it comes to victims who have disabilities, the complexities and challenges intensify, often leaving them with fewer resources and more obstacles to overcome in order to escape and recover from abuse.

Statistics show that people with disabilities experience domestic violence at significantly higher rates than their non-disabled counterparts. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that people with disabilities are three times more likely to experience violent victimization, including sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. This heightened vulnerability is exacerbated by several factors unique to the disabled community.

In addition to what we usually think of as forms of domestic violence (physical, verbal, emotional/psychological, sexual, and financial abuse), perpetrators who abuse people with disabilities can also employ tactics like withholding mobility aids and medications, and exploitation/manipulation of cognitive disabilities for further control. Abusers may also neglect their victims with disabilities by failing to provide necessary care, deliberately ignoring medical needs, or neglecting personal hygiene and nourishment for those who rely on others for their daily needs. Abusers also often assume that people with disabilities will not be believed or are less likely to report the abuse.

Barriers to Seeking Help

The barriers that people with disabilities face when seeking help for domestic violence are numerous and deeply entrenched in societal and systemic shortcomings. These include:

Accessibility issues  – Many shelters, police stations, and support services are not fully accessible to people with physical disabilities. This includes lack of ramps, inaccessible transportation, and insufficient accommodations for those with hearing or vision impairments.

Dependence on abusers – Victims with disabilities may depend on their abusers for personal care, mobility, and financial support, making it extremely challenging to leave the abusive situation.

Lack of sign language interpreters – People who are deaf may find it difficult to communicate their needs and experiences without appropriate interpretation services.

Cognitive and sensory barriers  – People with intellectual disabilities or sensory processing disorders may struggle to articulate their experiences or may not be believed when they do.

Fear of institutionalization  – Many people with disabilities fear being institutionalized if they report abuse, especially if they depend on their abuser for care.

Ensuring Protection

In order to ensure protection for people with disabilities who are also victims of domestic violence, there needs to be systemic change.

  1. Laws need to be strengthened to provide specific protections for people with disabilities who are facing domestic violence. This includes ensuring all support services are accessible.
  2. Specific training should be devised and implemented for law enforcement and service providers. First responders and domestic violence support workers should be trained to understand the unique needs of disabled individuals.
  3. All shelters and services should be accessible. Shelters should be equipped with necessary accommodations such as ramps, accessible bathrooms, and communication devices.
  4. There is a need for community-based specialized support programs that are designed to address the specific needs of victims of domestic violence who live with disabilities, including counseling services that understand the unique psychological impacts.
  5. Campaigns to educate the public about the prevalence and forms of abuse against people with disabilities can help reduce stigma and increase reporting.
  6. Programs that empower people with disabilities with information about their rights and resources available to them can be lifesaving.

By addressing the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities, we can create more inclusive and effective solutions to combat domestic violence. Through understanding and action, we can make sure that everyone, regardless of ability, is protected and supported in their journey towards safety and healing.


The Greene County Family Justice Center is a non-profit collaborative of local agencies offering comprehensive services to survivors of domestic, sexual, and family violence. Our services are trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and we welcome survivors at any point in their process. We partner with local non-profit service providers as well as local law enforcement, the Prosecutor’s office, and Children’s Division to make victim services more accessible and completely voluntary. If you do not want to participate in the criminal justice process, we support you.

Our vision is a future where we all work together to meet the needs of domestic violence and human trafficking survivors through comprehensive and accessible services, education, and perpetrator accountability. Through a coordinated framework and co-located response, we strive to break the vicious generational cycle and community impact of domestic violence and resulting victimizations.

We can help you plan for your safety whether you plan to stay in the relationship, or you are actively trying to escape. All our services are free, confidential and survivor centered. Have questions about what services are available? Visit us at 1418 E. Pythian Street or give us a call at 417-874-2600. We are open 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. For after-hours assistance, call the Harmony House/Victim Center’s 24-hour safe line at 417-864-SAFE (7233). If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.