Disabled survivors of domestic abuse less likely to be believed, trade unionists warn

STUC disabled workers conference calls for more support for disabled women who have been victims of domestic abuse

DISABLED women who face domestic violence experience additional barriers to get the right support, trade unionists have warned.

A motion was passed at the STUC disabled workers conference at the Golden Jubilee Hotel in Clydebank noting that services for disabled women who suffer from domestic violence are patchy and minimal and, in many cases, there are no available services.

According to the conference, the situation has been made worse by short-term funding arrangements and cuts to real terms funding, as well as judgemental and ill-informed stereotypes - including survivors being less likely to believed than non-disabled people.

Jackie McKenzie from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) said: “This motion raises the distinct concerns of disabled women and survivors in Scotland.

“Beaten at the hands of our partners, family members or a carer, almost one in two disabled women will experience domestic abuse.” Jackie McKenzie

“Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled.

“Beaten at the hands of our partners, family members or a carer, almost one in two disabled women will experience domestic abuse.

“They are also more likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time, to suffer more severe injuries, and on top of that they face additional barriers to access the support they need to escape.“  

The motion stated that several studies showed that disabled women are at higher risk of domestic violence.

“[Disabled people] are also more likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time, to suffer more severe injuries, and on top of that they face additional barriers to access the support they need to escape.“  Jackie McKenzie

A recent study conducted in Scotland showed that half of disabled women who experience abuse found that discrimination and stereotyping has stopped them accessing the appropriate support due to lack of proper accommodation.

Other barriers include judgmental attitudes surrounding a disabled woman’s sexuality and an unwillingness to accept that someone would abuse disabled women.

Barbara Farmer from the Public and Communication Services union (PCS) read out a statement on behalf of the STUC disabled workers committee in support of the motion.

Farmer said: “Disabled men and women are more likely to experience some form of domestic abuse than men and women without a disability.

“In addition to this, domestic abuse victims find that police forces and councils do not take them seriously and always take the man’s side.” Barbara Farmer

“Yes, disabled women are more likely to experience domestic abuse in favour of men and experience more frequent and more severe domestic abuse than men.

“However, being disabled does carry the further risk of domestic abuse. Disabled men experience a higher rate of abuse than non-disabled men.

“In addition to this, domestic abuse victims find that police forces and councils do not take them seriously and always take the man’s side.”

Farmer added: “We need to ensure that services such as Refuge and Abused Men in Scotland are able to understand the additional issues faced by disabled victims of domestic abuse as to make services fully accessible to disabled people, and to ensure that disability organisations can be contacted by a domestic abuse victim of either sex, confident in the fact that they will be offered the correct advice.”

The conference is calling on the STUC disabled workers committee to highlight the impact social security cuts and cuts to the domestic violence sector are having on disabled women’s lives, and find ways to address the concerns and barriers disabled women survivors face as part of their ongoing work on tackling domestic abuse.

Picture courtesy of Laura Dodsworth

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