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Disabled Women Face 40% Higher Risk of Domestic Violence

Women with disabilities are far more likely to be victims of domestic violence, researchers at the University of Manitoba have found in a new study.

The study, published in the September issue of the research journal Violence Against Women, has found women with disabilities are almost 40 percent more likely than non-disabled women to be victims of violence at the hands of their husbands. Women with disabilities are at particular risk of facing severe violence, said author Douglas Brownridge, an associate professor in family social sciences.

"Perpetrators may feel that women with disabilities are less able to resist their dominating, jealous and possessive and violent behaviours, so simply it could be a factor of seeing them as being more vulnerable," Brownridge said Monday. Brownridge, who analyzed Statistics Canada data from more than 7,000 women across the country, found that male partners of women with disabilities were 2-1/2 times more likely to "behave in a dominating manner" and 1-1/2 times more likely to "be unreasonably jealous towards their disabled partners." "They, in fact, were more likely than partners of women without disabilities to engage in patriarchal, dominating behaviour, to engage in jealous behaviour, possessive behaviour. And ... those differences accounted for the higher risk of violence against women with disabilities," he said.

Abusers may feel their disabled spouses are less likely to report violent behaviour because they are more dependent on their partners for daily assistance, Brownridge said. "The women with disabilities may fear that they'll have no one to provide the essential care for them or that they'll have to move," he said.

Brownridge said he hopes his findings will be used to improve education among those who care for disabled women, especially their doctors.

Reprinted from CBC News, October 2, 2006: