The nightmare of abuse leaves you feeling helpless, hopeless and trapped. Psychologically, you are a prisoner. Too afraid to leave, but afraid of what will happen if you stay. We all know this. Now imagine for a second that you couldn’t go. I don’t mean the psychological barriers we all face in leaving. I mean you literally, physically could not go. What if it wasn’t an option? Imagine depending on your abuser for your very life, literally. Imagine being trapped not only by the abuse, but also by a wheelchair, cancer, or a child with Autism.
This scenario is all too common. Women who have a disability are at a much greater risk than other women, of being victims of physical or sexual abuse. According to the Center On Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies at Syracuse University, women with disabilities are about twice as likely to become victims of abuse as are women who do not have a disability. Their disabilities or those of their children make them much more vulnerable and also put up much higher barriers to receiving assistance to get away from the abuse.
Many shelters are not equipped to handle the special needs of women with disabilities and this decreases the options for these women to leave. For example, if a woman needs attendant care on a regular basis, or special bathroom facilities, or needs lifts and ramps to access buildings, then many shelters cannot meet her needs and she may be sent to an institution which is not equipped or trained to support victims of domestic abuse. Women with disabilities may also have trouble accessing information or supports, due to communication barriers. Negative attitudes and prejudices devalue people with disabilities and this combined with difficulty in prosecuting abusers in these cases has contributed to a lack of responsiveness within law enforcement and an ineffective judicial system in these cases. Abusers learn that they can get away with whatever they want, and they do.
According to the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abusers use a range of tactics to keep their disabled victims under their control, including manipulation of medication, refusal to help meet basic needs such as grooming, hygiene, clothing or feeding, and destruction or withholding of adaptive equipment or financial resources. Abusers will also withhold access to needed communication aides such as TTY and translators, and make decisions on the care their victims will or won’t receive.
Women with disabilities are much more dependent on their abusers than their counterparts for basic care, financial support and decision making; and the fear of losing these things keeps them in their relationships with their abusers on average almost twice as long as their non-disabled counterparts.
Women who have children with disabilities are often unable to leave their abusive situations, as shelters and friends are not always equipped to take them. They are often full time care givers of their children and can not work to provide an income with which to leave and be able to provide for themselves and their children. They depend on the income of the abuser and this keeps them locked into the abuse.
This is a much bigger problem than is really recognized, even by many abuse advocates today and it needs serious attention and change. What are your thoughts? Have you experienced this kind of complication or know someone who has? How can advocates for the disability community work along side the advocates for abuse survivors, to create change and open access to real supports for the many victims with disabilities, trapped by their abusers?
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A useful resource: Help and Advice for Women with Disabilities — by Domestic Violence Resource Centre, Victoria, Australia
An academic paper from Australia: ‘Double the Odds’ — Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
Justice. Crying out against injustice. This is what this blog is all about. The primary injustice is the abuse that the abusive spouse does to the target spouse. The secondary injustice, which is all too common, is the way churches, family and friends fail to hold the abuser properly accountable. The pain of this secondary injustice can be as bad as the pain and suffering of the primary injustice. We expect the church, our friends and maybe our family to support us: to declare the injustice of the abuser’s evil deeds and hold him accountable. And when that expectation is dashed, it hurts so much more because we had been holding out so much hope.
Were we wrong to hold out hope? No.
After all, the Bible talks so much about holding oppressors accountable, not taking bribes from the wicked, judging matters rightly, bringing justice to the oppressed, upholding the rights of the widows, the orphans, the poor. And victims of abuse fall into those categories — if not in letter, certainly in principle.
But what do we so often find instead? Well, it’s pretty much summed up by Jeremiah 23:14-20. God has great wrath for leaders who enable evil doers.
But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly.
NOTE: New date for interview
This is a reminder that
tomorrow on Sunday 28th September George Simon’s Character Matters broadcast will feature an interview with Barbara Roberts, one of the co-leaders of A Cry For Justice. You can listen to the interview live, or download the show later.
You will be able to download the show after it has aired. To do this, go to ucy.tv/cm. You’ll find the list of archived Character Matters programs by scrolling down and looking on the left hand side of the page.
Be aware that when you go to the ucy.tv website, whatever happens to be broadcasting at the time will be automatically streamed live to you, which you can stop by clicking the pause button on the right hand side of the page where the live stream is happening.
Guest post from one of our readers. Many thanks to her for sharing.
At first it was unclear to me exactly why I didn’t tell for so long. But as my world crumbled around me, a new world was being built: one of truth and love, free from abuse. With the telling came a destruction of perceived reality and the building of true reality which would only grow stronger.
My telling didn’t begin by my own work; it began at the hands of my abuser. It certainly was not his intention to reveal that his “dearest” wife was daily used for emotional target practice, but still he did. It was also the farthest thing from my mind to consider that his treatment of me was even wrong and that I might have some recourse against it. Years before I had steeled myself against the harsh perception that I was destined to remain forever bound to the maniac who called himself my husband. So when the day came that I was unable to find a suitable excuse for his outright abuse, I was terrified. How was I to maintain the image of marital peace when I was now being treated the same way in front of others as I was at home? How was I to defend his actions when others were now witnessing the very behavior?
It had been “comfortable” to be abused in the privacy of my own home. No one else saw it, I didn’t have to make excuses, and once I left the doors of my home I began the play-acting that I called my life. Because there were never any bruises, it was not too difficult to hide. Being in a new city among people who never knew “me” before, made it easy for my abuse to avoid notice. For them, the absence of bruises meant the absence of any cruelty. They never saw the inside, however. They never saw the disappearance of hobbies, interests, skills, gifts, talents, or other little joys because they had nothing with which to compare me. To them, the real “me” was the one being created in our home, changing ever so slightly each day until I became the person the abuser wanted me to become.
Because of these facts, the telling was only believed by those who knew the original “me” and could recognize the changes. It was those Precious Others who made it possible for me (both the old and new) to begin telling. Once it started I found it impossible to stop. Of course, I still qualified everything, taking as much blame as possible, downplaying the abuse as if I could somehow redeem it. Thankfully those I was telling could quickly recognize when it was the old me or the new who was speaking. Until I was able to make the decision to flee, they helped to slowly strip away the new me, peeling back the layers of protective deceit and false happiness until they found the person they once knew. The real me.
Once I saw the difference in all of its raw glory, the telling spread from those Precious Others to a pastor and some friends. It was their involvement that began the escalation of the abuse and the eventual necessity of my leaving.
So I didn’t start the fire (of telling), but I didn’t put it out, either. It was that fire that lit the path that led me home.
These are signs that you may be involved with an abusive partner.
Are you afraid of him?
Are you getting distant from friends or family because he makes those relationships difficult?
Is your level of energy and motivation declining, or do you feel depressed?
Is your self-opinion declining, so that you are always fighting to be good enough and to prove yourself?
Do you find yourself constantly preoccupied with the relationship and how to fix it?
Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?
Do you feel like the problems in your relationship are all your fault?
Do you repeatedly leave arguments feeling like you’ve been messed with but can’t figure out exactly why?
[from Lundy Bancroft's book, Why Does He DO That?* p130]
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link
Dr George K Simon Jnr reflected on the Ray Rice affair a few days ago. Simon is a clinical psychologist whose work we often recommend on this blog, His audio broadcast where he shares his thoughts on the Ray Rice affair can be found here.* He says that the Ray Rice affair illustrates how society no longer values character enough.
*By the way, when you listen to Dr Simon’s broadcasts you will hear a song at the beginning. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea music-wise, and for those of us who are not US citizens it may grate because of its American patriotism. My advice is: if you don’t like the song much, just let it pass and pay attention to his verbal message. :)
George Simon’s weekly broadcast is called Character Matters. What does it mean to ‘value character’? It means to put a high value on what is (or used to be!) commonly known as ‘good character’ — the regular practice of virtues like respect and consideration for the rights and needs of others and for the wellbeing of society, truthfulness, courtesy, thrift, financial probity and responsibility, care for the poor and the weak in society, temperance, avoidance of vice, and choosing to work for long term improvements rather than short term gratification.
If we are to assess the health of society, character decline is the enemy within. That is what Dr Simon says. He says that in his lifetime he has seen such a decline in character in society that it is mind boggling.
Indigenous societies often put a high value on the wisdom of elders. I believe Dr Simon should be seen as one of western society’s elders, and listened to carefully.
There are still people of good character, but they are fewer and further between. Dr Simon believes, and I agree with him, that we have fertilized the growth of narcissism in our society by the excessive pursuit of hedonism, affluence gone to seed, and praising people for their natural gifts and privileges (such as good looks, intelligence, wealth, athletic or artistic capacities) rather than:
- praising people for the effort they put into developing whatever gifts and privileges they may have been born with, and
- praising and rewarding those who put consistent effort into developing good character and moderating and tempering their individual weaknesses.
What we have today is a society in which the minority of people who still do take character seriously, are taking responsibility for more and more people who just don’t care, who have various degrees of character disorder, sometimes malignantly so, who don’t respect the reasonable rights and needs of others, and who don’t give a fig for their own character development and maintenance. They just don’t think it matters.
Readers of this blog know only too well how the character disordered individuals leave messes in their wake. They cause confusion and trauma to those they run roughshod over, those they manipulate and those they lie to. They leech money and attention from other individuals and from society. They stir up chaos. The mess they create needs to be fixed up and repaired by society, and the individuals who are doing the repair jobs — that shrinking minority of individuals who have good character — are getting more and more burned out by the burder of repair and clean-up they are carrying. Whether it be in a family home where one person is carrying the load for a lazy other, or in the broader society where justice and human welfare professionals are cleaning up and trying to restrain the mess-making of the character disordered mayhem makers, the load is growing, and the pool of load-bearers is shrinking . . . while the proportion of fools, narcissists, lazy, over-entitled and wicked is rising.
All systems in society need major improvements and in some cases, major overhauls, if this trend is to be turned around. But that will not happen unless more individuals and we as a whole society recognize that character matters. This is George Simon’s message, and he keeps repeating it in many ways with different illustrations and case studies.
Each time I hear or read George Simon’s messages, I am impressed how much they concord with the principles of Christian living — true Christian living in contrast to
(a) the Christianity of lip service Sunday-ism: the glossy magazine version of Christianity that is read and remembered with about as much attention as a glossy magazine is read and remembered
(b) the livid underbelly of glossy magazine Christianity: the wickedly distorted doctrine and teaching that devalues certain groups and individuals and that folds all the wickedness under the rug and sews it into seams and hidden pockets where it can breed and exercise its creeping power and control over its victims, unrestrained by the light of justice.
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George Simon’s broadcast next week will feature an interview he did with me, Barbara Roberts. You can listen to it live, or download the show later. We will give our readers a reminder about this interview a day before it airs live. But you might like to put it in your diaries now:
Sunday 21 Sept, 7pm Eastern Daylight Time USA / 4pm Pacific Daylight Time USA
= Monday 22 Sept 9am Australian Eastern Standard Time.
The Character Matters show broadcasts on the web each week at the time given above, but if you plan on following it regularly, be aware that the time equivalents will change when daylight saving clicks over.
To hear archived programs from Character Matters, go to ucy.tv/cm. When you go to the ucy.tv website, whatever happens to be broadcasting at the time will be automatically streamed live to you but you can stop this by clicking the pause button on the right hand section of the page. Then at your leisure you can scroll down the page till you see the Character Matters archives in the left hand column.
I have to say that when Dr Simon interviewed me for this upcoming show the experience was profoundly inspiring and moving for me. Dr Simon is nearing the end of his professional life and I believe we would do well to value, appreciate and absorb his wisdom while time still allows.
I encourage our readers to tune in regularly to Dr Simon’s broadcasts; you can even phone in to his show while it’s airing to ask him a question or make a comment. His blog is Manipulative People and he also writes articles for Counselling Resource Mental Health Library. His three books are listed on our Books By Author page and we have a tag for all the post on ACFJ which refer to him: cryingoutforjustice.com/tag/george-simon-jnr