Black Ribbon New Zealand
Ending Domestic Violence for Everyone!

Disability Abuse

Disability abuse is when a person becomes a victim of abuse because they have a disability. Victimization can include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect. Because abuse is about power and control, people with disabilities may face unique challenges and barriers to accessing support.

Current knowledge about victimisation of persons with disabilities is based on a small number of studies, and little is known about victimisation of specific groups such as persons with traumatic brain injury. 

While anyone can experience violence, abuse or neglect, people with disabilities are at greater risk.

The latest 2021 published NZCASS results give us the following insight into the prevalence of family violence where the victim has a disability:
"The results reveal that if the adult population with disability had the same age structure as the general adult population, 6.5% would have been victims of offences by family members in the previous12 months. This was significantly higher than the national average of 2.2%. On the other hand, if people without disability had the same age structure as the general adult population, 2.1% would have been victims of offences by family members in the previous12 months. This was not significantly different from the national average of 2.2%."


Risks for people with disabilities:

  • Misperceptions about disability include “having a disability protects a person from victimization”; the risks to a person with disabilities are thought to be less than the risks to a person who has none.
  • Unemployment or underemployment of persons with disabilities restricts their income and limits their choices for caregivers, leading to an increased risk of physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, or neglect.
  • Lack of money often causes persons with disabilities to live in areas where crime rates are high and the potential for physical and sexual violence is greater than in wealthier neighborhoods.
  • Community resources for victims of physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, or neglect are usually designed to assist people without disabilities. Organizations that provide such resources do not routinely collaborate with organizations that assist persons with disabilities.
  • Frequently, health care and law enforcement professionals are uninformed about victimization of persons with disabilities. Thus, they may not have the specialized knowledge or skills to identify and assist these individuals when victimized.
  • Some people don’t report abuse and neglect because they are ill, frail or have communication difficulties. Others think that:
    • they will experience more abuse
    • no one can help
    • there is no proof
    • they deserve it
    • it is too shameful
    • it is a family problem
    • they should keep on coping
    • they might lose their caregiver
    • their caregiver will institutionalize them