“It is widely believed that women with disabilities are disproportionately at risk of intimate partner violence
2,yet they rarely seek the services of a shelter. It is the purpose of this Paper to raise the consciousness of providers of domestic violence services about how tobetter serve women3 with disabilities, and to enhance the ability of programs servingsurvivors to reach out to survivors with disabilities4.
This paper is not intended to be a criticism of shelters. To the contrary, I have a great deal of respect for the commitment shelters have to serving survivors, and of the sacrifices theymake to do so. Through my workwith the victim.s rights community and the disability rightscommunity, however, I am also aware of thegreat number of women across the countrywith disabilities who stay in abusive relationships because their local shelter is either not incompliance with federal law or has failed to adequately let the community know of itscompliance and desire to serve these women.Consider the words of Kimberly Black Wiseman, a woman who is a quadriplegic as aresult of a car accident when she was 16, who stayed in a violent relationshipwhichalmost resulted in her death:
“Looking back on my experiences of abuse, during the battering relationship in 1990 I did not perceive a shelter as an option because of my need for physicalaccessibility and attendant care. Back in 1990, basic community services, evenrestaurants, were generally not accessible to me because that was just after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the battering relationship, ifI had had information on safety planning, education, and domestic violence, andhad an accessible shelter available, I would have been better able to protectmyself . to get out of the relationship before I was severely beaten and before
the hospital and the police had to become involved to get me out.
For how many women with disabilities is this statement still true?
6 What can be done toimprove the situation? The Center for Research on Women with DisabilitiesBaylor College of MedicineWomen, atBaylor College of Medicine, has done excellentwork on the issue of women with disabilities and domestic violencefor years, and offers some excellent observations and recommendations.
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