Violence against women and girls with disabilities

Consequences of violence

Consequences of violence inflicted on women with disabilities are often ascribed to their handicap. The real cause remains hidden.

The impacts of sexualised, physical and psychological violence are serious; disabled girls and women are not affected by other or “special” impacts though. What is special though is that the consequences of the exposure to violence are often attributed to the disability: Serious anxiety, phobias or traumatisation, self-injurious behaviour, pain without organic cause or mental problems are explained with the disability.

This involves the danger of failing to recognise or relativising violence. Being exposed to violence can entail very different impacts and consequences. In case of sexualised violence, women concerned often mention autoaggressive behaviour, anxieties, phobias, dizziness, stomach pains and belly aches without organic causes, menstrual pains, sleeping disorders, sexual problems, headaches, depressions and sadness as consequences of the violence experienced.

Some girls and women with disabilities and above all women with learning difficulties (i.e. those diagnosed as having a “mental handicap”) often experience not being believed. At the same time many of the abuses remain without consequences. Girls and women with disabilities are often regarded as “defenceless victims”, of whom no or little resistance must be expected. The prejudice that women with disabilities are not affected by violence nourishes doubts in the credibility of statements made. This is exacerbated if the women or girls concerned have limited communication skills. In such cases, it is often difficult to detect serious violence as such and communicate it.