What is domestic abuse, and how does it affect disabled people? — Scope | Disability forum
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What is domestic abuse, and how does it affect disabled people?

Tori_Scope Posts: 9,696 Scope online community team
TW: domestic abuse, sexual abuse

A campaign called '16 days of action against domestic violence' is taking place from the 25th November until the 10th December. This is all about raising awareness of domestic abuse, and how we can tackle the problem. I've written a little bit about what domestic abuse is, how domestic abuse affects disabled people, what mate crime is, and what advice and support there is available. 

What is domestic abuse?

According to the Met Police website:
Domestic abuse is categorised by any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
  • physical
  • emotional
  • psychological
  • sexual
  • financial
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any gender, age, ethnicity, or sexuality, and can affect disabled people too.


Physical abuse is one of the most well-recognised forms of abuse. It can encompass a range of different behaviours, including physical violence and intimidation. 

Emotional and Psychological

Emotional and psychological abuse can be more subtle, but their effects can be extremely damaging and long-lasting. They can include name-calling, threats and intimidation, and 'gaslighting'. 


Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse, but it can have huge emotional consequences too. Sexual abuse can involve rape, or unwanted sexual advances, among other harmful actions. Forced sexual activity, even by an intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is a crime.


One of the less talked about forms of domestic abuse, financial abuse is a common form of coercive control. It can involve the abuser taking control of an individual's finances without their consent, stealing money from them, or limiting their access to their own money. 

The facts about disabled people and domestic abuse

Here are 10 facts about domestic abuse and disability:
  1. Disabled people experience disproportionately higher rates of domestic abuse (Public Health England)
  2. Disabled people experience more severe domestic abuse for longer periods of time (Public Health England)
  3. Disabled people face domestic abuse from a wider range of people, including partners, family members, personal assistants and healthcare professionals (Public Health England)
  4. Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled women (Crime Survey of England and Wales
  5. 8% of men with a long-term illness or disability had experienced domestic abuse compared to 3% of non-disabled men (Office for National Statistics)
  6. Of the 11,187 refuge vacancies available during 2016/17, less than 2% had wheelchair access (Women's Aid)
  7. Only 20% of refuges said they were able to accommodate a carer (Women's Aid)
  8. Only 21% of refuge services offered support for women with learning difficulties (Women's Aid)
  9. Only 3% of refuge centres employ staff proficient in British Sign Language (Women's Aid)
  10. Up to 98% of learning disability hate crime, including mate crime, goes unreported (British Crime Survey)

Mate crime

This information has been taken from Autism Together, and the Manchester Safeguarding Partnership. It's important to note that it's not just autistic people who can be targets of mate crime, but disabled people are often the targets of this type of hate crime.

Mate crime is when someone says they are your friend, but asks you to do things that make you feel uncomfortable, or exploits you in some way. As with domestic abuse, there are multiple types of mate crime, including:
  • Financial abuse: the abuser might demand or ask to be lent money, and then not pay it back
  • Physical abuse: the abuser might hurt or injure the individual
  • Harassment or emotional abuse: the abuser might manipulate, mislead and make the person feel worthless
  • Sexual abuse: the abuser might harm or take advantage of the person sexually
green and yellow speech bubble

Getting help and support

It's really important that you speak up if you're experiencing domestic abuse or mate crime, or suspect that someone you know might be. 


Here are some helplines, who can offer you advice and support.

Reporting abuse

Here are some options:
  • Call 999 if you're in danger, or it's an emergency. If you can't answer their questions due to fear of harm, cough or tap the handset. The operator may ask you to press 55 if you're unable to speak. You can also text 'REGISTER' to 999 and follow the instructions if you're unable to call
  • Contact your local police force if it's not an emergency
  • Tell your parent, carer or support worker. They can support you in reporting it
  • Call any of the helplines listen above

Finding emergency housing

The Scope website has a page on finding emergency housing if you feel unsafe

There are 2 ways of accessing short-term emergency housing:
  • through a referral to a refuge
  • with help from your local authority
The accommodation available may not be in your area, and you may have to move away.
If you are renting and worried about your contract, it's best to leave your home first. Support officers can help you sort out your tenancy later.

Do you have any advice for someone who might be in this situation? What do you think could be done to help disabled people who face domestic abuse or hate crime? 
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  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 16,533 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks for sharing good topic, I was a victim of mate crime but luckily I soon became aware and managed to put a stop to it.

    When I moved in my house our neighbour 35 year old man came straight away knocking on the door offering help , and I admit I was quite relieved being disabled with only a young child it was going to be herd getting sorted , 
    He did all sorts like moving furniture, plumbing washer in, setting up tv and so on. I offered to pay him but he insisted he didnt want anything.

    I started to notice items were going missing starting off with small things like biscuits, then on the fourth day of him helping some money went out of my purse and there was only me and him in the house that day ? I also found some other stuff missing new clothes, etc . I confronted him next day and he denied it and got angry sating after all he had done for me but I realised he had used my vulnerability to target me.

    I told him to stay away from me and my property or I would report it to the police and housing association and my brother also had a word with him. It was later I discovered even more had been taken including 2 ipads that were awaiting repair. I had no  proof so didnt report to police as also was afraid of any consequences

    He is still my neighbour unfortunately but we dont have anything to do with each other
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Posts: 9,696 Scope online community team
    I'm sorry that you had that experience @janer1967, that's horrible. Unfortunately, a lot of people avoid reporting these types of crimes due to fear of the consequences. I'm glad that you realised what had happened and it didn't go any further, though.
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  • newborn
    newborn Member Posts: 747 Pioneering
    Thank you for this excellent summary and the topic, and the information. 

    Unfortunately, in law, one must carefully select one's abuser from the 'correct' groups. 

     A house sharer who is a personal partner counts, but an ordinary house sharer can do as he likes.   A carer who fits the correct tick box counts, but one who has access to your home and to you but doesn't fit the correct box doesn't count.     Any one who doesn't count as a potential domestic abuser can abuse away, and the victims will not be able to do anything to defend themselves through the domestic abuse laws.
  • Ross_Scope
    Ross_Scope Posts: 7,528 Scope online community team
    edited November 2020
    Thanks for your input @newborn.

    To those reading, , we would always advise anyone experiencing abuse to seek help and report what they are going through, regardless of who is abusing you.

    You can find many resources and avenues for reporting the abuse in the fantastic piece at the top of the page by Tori.

    And if you are in danger or have an emergency, please dial 999..
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  • cupcake88
    cupcake88 Posts: 1,240 Pioneering
    Thanks for sharing @janer1967 sorry you went threw this ,

    this is such a good topic highlighting the types of domestic violence . 

    I became disabled because of being in a domestic violent relationship . My abuser was nice at first even told me he was a victim of domestic abuse so in my head I would excuse his actions to wards me and did find out that he had never been abused and he had abused other women prior to me  . I found this out by using Claire’s law where the police can tell you if a partner has abused any one in the past .

    i was emotionaly abused at first , then financially abused he controlled my money , then came physical and sexual . I was raped and abused daily by my ex partner some form of abuse daily , me and my little dog fled to women’s refugee regularly he always had away of getting me to go back . Even when he tried to kill me I stayed I listened to his sob story . 

    I want to add that women’s aid and victim support are  my hero’s me calling them when he was out gave me strength to finally leave . I was able to plan my escape . They say the deadliest time to leave is when there in the house and you confront them . Before he let me leave he gave me one last beating then threw a whole bag of dried dog food  On me . I left at 3 am with my dog and a wonky case covered in dog food and went to a hotel .  He had also fractured my arm That night I was so number I didn’t even realise he had fractured it until I was in the hotel . 

    I never reported him to the police but logged the abuse . The reason why I didn’t report him was I felt guiltY because he had a son and I didn’t want his son to not have a dad he was abusive to women but a good dad . He used to guilt trip me as well that his mum was old ect . I wish that I had reported him but I was broken and I wouldn’t of been able to stand in a court . 

    When your in a abusive relationship you try your best to cover it up . You hide and make excuses about your injuries . After he would really hurt me he would always try and turn it around that it was my fault and this is what abusers do . It’s always good to have the knowledge of what to look out for so you could potentially support some one going threw it . 

    This happened to me years ago but as most of you know this is how I became disabled due to extreme trauma I went threw this didn’t happened until a good two years after leaving this toxic situation I felt signs of my mental illness  but I didn’t realise how badly the trauma affected me . 

    I would say to any one who is reading this and who is in a abusive relationship Please leave they will never change . I think this is such a good topic as it makes others aware of types of abuse . I didn’t realise my abuser  was abusing me until he started to hit me And rape me  but really he had started After I had moved in with the emotional abuse .

    I’m very blessed now that I do have an amazing partner I was able to trust a man again and I truly to have such a special person in my life he is very supportive with my illness and loves me as I do him , 

  • Jean Eveleigh
    Jean Eveleigh Member Posts: 166 Pioneering
    I feel this is also a very nuanced issue as it is as much about how the person feels as much as the actual abuse suffered, by this I mean there are things that happen in one relationship that would be abusive but in another are perfectly wanted and accepted and the person doesn't feel abused at all.

    If we take sex without consent, for example, you wake to find your partner having sex with you as you were asleep when they started you could not have given consent to them starting, in one relationship this would be rape, on paper, it is; but in another, it is a nice loving welcome way to wake up.

    A  relationship where only one partner has a bank account could be abusive or it could be that due to debt or difficulty in proving who they are (no driving licence or passport etc) the other partner finds it difficult to open an account.

    Abusive relationships are very real and very scary and it may take the abused partner (of which I have been more than once) along time to realise they are being abused but also all relationships are about give and take and I worry about actions that are abusive in one situation being tarred as being abusive in all situations when this is not necessarily the case

  • newborn
    newborn Member Posts: 747 Pioneering
    edited November 2020
    Sorry, but being un-heard is in itself abusive. Slowly, repeating the words: Being...Abused.... 
    Inside....The....O N L Y.....Place.....You.....Have....A....Roof.....Does ....N O T,.....N O T....N O T
    O N L Y......Happen......Within.....A.....'Relationship'.
    (Nor within the few 'exceptions' on the tick box list)

    The majority of Homeless are Hidden Homeless, the majority of them are excluded from immigrant help organisations because they are not immigrants.   They are excluded from DV organisations because foolishly they have been abused by someone whom they could not exclude from their home but with whom they did N O T 'have a relationship'.   

    They have nowhere to live because they cannot qualify for Council Lists, nor  find a private landlord to take them because they are old and/or disabled and living on life savings and whatever possessions they have salvaged  over periods of sofa surfing, precarious house sharing and unofficial sub lettings.    They have N O  legal status to retain any roof over their head if they breathe a word about any abuse, from any landlord/sub landlord/ fellow unofficial tenant/ false friend/carer.

    It is disturbing that their existence is denied, by dangerous repetitions of falsehoods.   The stark choice is sleeping in the street, as punishment for failing to fit inside a tick box, or just accepting abuse from opportunists with access to the only place where  a roof has been found.    If this were not a problem, why were the famous Bournemouth Bus Shelter couple unable to find private landlords, unable to get help from the council, and living on the sea front, he a wheelchair user, both in their 90's.?    A journalist managed to get national publicity, and exceptions were made, but that did not expunge every other similar case up and down the country.    The system which put them on the sea front, as punishment for life savings, persists.   They could not have trundled into a police station and reported abuse,      
  • newborn
    newborn Member Posts: 747 Pioneering
    Jean Eveleigh Hear hear.  Good post, thanks.
    Cupcake88 So pleased for you that you have a lovely new life, well done you
  • Iamstrong
    Iamstrong Member Posts: 43 Connected
    I have also been a victim too hate crime a girl pretending to be my pal always asking too lend money and tabs saying I will pay you back I promise then she never did so now I'm going nowhere near her and when she knocks on my door now my partner tells her no and shuts door people show there true colours in the end she was no friend she just used me 
  • Iamstrong
    Iamstrong Member Posts: 43 Connected
    Mate crime I mean 
  • Ross_Scope
    Ross_Scope Posts: 7,528 Scope online community team
    I'm sorry to hear that @Iamstrong, did you report the issue?

    I'm glad your partner is supporting you with the situation.
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  • Iamstrong
    Iamstrong Member Posts: 43 Connected
    @Ross_Scope no I did not report it as I dont want any trouble I'm looking too move from here as some ppl on my street aren't nice they are wrong ones so I'm just gonna kp myself too myself 
  • Ross_Scope
    Ross_Scope Posts: 7,528 Scope online community team
    Okay then @Iamstrong, keep safe :) 
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  • Iamstrong
    Iamstrong Member Posts: 43 Connected
    @Ross_Scope thank you same too you 
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Posts: 9,696 Scope online community team
    Thank you to everyone who's shared their experiences so far. I'm sure it can't be easy to open up about these things, but I'm really glad you all felt as though this was a safe place to do so. 
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