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Violence Against Newcomer Women With Disabilities

Women with disabilities face the highest rates of gender-based violence.  60% of women with disabilities have experienced some form of violence (DAWN Canada). Women with disabilities are 3 times likely to experience sexual violence. Newcomer women with disabilities face even more barriers to accessing support.

Who are Newcomer Women with Disabilities?

There is a range of ways that newcomer women can identify with disability. These include chronic disease, low vision, deaf/deafened/hard of hearing (note: many from the deaf community do not consider it a disability, but a culture), acquired brain injuries, developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health-related disabilities, and physical disabilities. Some of these disabilities are visible, while others are invisible unless they are disclosed.

How is Violence Against Newcomer Women with Disabilities Distinct?

This section will cover the specific experiences of violence that newcomer women with disabilities may face. Please add this information to what you learned in the sections on violence against women, the types of violence and the warning signs of domestic violence.

A Note on the Word “Disability”

The word disability can be part of the problem. It makes it seem like people with disabilities are different, or lacking something. The truth is: our society is not designed to be accessible for many people. There should be supports and accommodations to ensure that everyone has access to services - regardless of what their abilities are.

Newcomer women with disabilities may experience violence in distinct ways. For example:

  • Neglect related to her care (e.g. not providing her with medicine or medical care, not giving her a bath, forcing her to eat faster than she can or is comfortable with)
  • Abuse can occur by a caregiver or helping professional
  • Forced isolation (e.g. denying her help in leaving home or communicating with others)
  • Psychological violence through the abuse of her service animal or threatening to hurt her children
  • Economic abuse by overcharging for services or stealing her money

What Barriers Can Prevent Newcomer Women with Disabilities from Accessing Support?

Gaps in social services can make it challenging for newcomer women with disabilities to access support.

  • It can be difficult for a disabled newcomer woman to leave a violent or abusive situation due to a fear of loss of disability-related supports
  • Since the person abusing her could be her caregiver, there could be fear of loss of services, access, relationship, being a burden, or “taking from the system”
  • There are not a lot of shelters that are accessible for newcomer women with disabilities
  • There is a lack of access to attendant care and sign language interpretation
  • Very few services exist that support both the settlement and accessibility needs of newcomer women with disabilities
  • There is a misconception that newcomers do not have disabilities and therefore do not require access to these services
  • Services in the disability sector have not specifically focused on supporting the multiple and distinct needs that newcomers experience  
  • In addition to domestic violence, ableism, and lack of accessibility of services, newcomer women with disabilities can experience discrimination or profiling based on their race or ethnicity, religion/faith, language, ability, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and class
Mental Health System Advocacy Wheel