Students with Disabilities
People with all kinds of disabilities often face unique challenges when it comes to incidences of sexual violence and abuse. Alongside the trauma of the abuse itself, people with disabilities might also experience additional difficulties relating to their impairment. This may involve problems concerning social stigma, legal discrimination, ability to give consent and reliance on others.
It is important to remember that it is never your fault.
This page is dedicated to enabling everyone in the disabled community in finding the support they deserve. Information is powerful, and everyone has an equal right to access help and to feel respected.
People with disabilities are sometimes targets for sexual violence and abuse due to their perceived vulnerability, which their abusers may take advantage of. As with anybody, sometimes it can be difficult for individuals to recognize abuse, or an abusive relationship. This can be more confusing if the abuser is an authority figure such as a carer, as these are people who individuals with disabilities are usually encouraged to trust and rely on.
If you have a disability and you have experienced abuse, you are not alone.
Consent is an essential part of any relationship, but it can sometimes be complex and confusing. For people with disabilities, there can be barriers in terms of understanding the importance of consent, understanding the intentions of others and actively communicating consent. The most important thing to remember is that having a disability does not diminish the importance of consent.
Sometimes people with disabilities worry about facing legal discrimination when it comes to reporting their abuse, but discrimination against people with disabilities is illegal. People with disabilities have a legal right to be treated the same as those without a disability.
The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 specifically includes crimes against people with disabilities in their definition of sexual abuse. Situations are included in which people with disabilities are unable to refuse because of a lack of understanding, where people with disabilities are offered inducements or are threatened or deceived. Often this involves a breach of trust e.g. by a care worker.
Survivors with disabilities may be scared of the consequences that reporting abuse might have on the care they receive. This could happen if they were abused by a care worker, a friend or someone in a supportive position. It is vital to remember that you do not owe anything to anyone, and no one has the right to mistreat you.
Any sexual violence and abuse is illegal.
Some people worry that they won't be taken seriously when they report instances of sexual abuse. It is important to remember that abuse is never acceptable, and your experience of abuse is as valid as anyone else's.
It can be hard for anyone to know where to seek help, but for people with disabilities this can be especially tough. Possible psychological side-effects of abuse, including feelings of low self-esteem or low self-worth, may prevent people from recognising and reporting abuse. This, combined with the usual anxiety about looking for help, can often make this seem an impossible task.
People with disabilities may also be unsure of how to seek help or to whom to turn. This can be particularly problematic when access to support services is restricted by an individual’s disability.
It is important to get help from others. There are people who are willing to be there for you and you deserve to be helped. Please see the ‘People with Disabilities’ section under ‘Useful Contacts’ for some of our suggestions.