Violence Against People with Disabilities


Those facing disability can be our community’s most vulnerable individuals.  Sadly, it appears that this vulnerable population faces an increased danger of violent victimization.

Violence against people with disabilities is receiving increased attention in the scientific and legal communities as of late.  For instance, a recent paper analyzing crime statistics in England and Wales is bringing recognition to the inordinate number of violent acts perpetrated on disabled citizens.  After analyzing British Crime Survey statistics, comparing violence experienced by people with disability to those without, the authors of the study came to the following conclusions:

People with disability are at increased risk of being victims of domestic and non-domestic violence, and of suffering mental ill health when victimized. The related public health and economic burden calls for an urgent assessment of the causes of this violence, and national policies on violence prevention in this vulnerable group.

(Source: Khalifeh H, Howard LM, Osborn D, Moran P, Johnson S (2013) Violence against People with Disability in England and Wales: Findings from a National Cross-Sectional Survey. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55952. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055952).

Read the full paper here.

Here in the United States, citizens of Mississippi have recognized the increased violence against people with disabilities as well.  Inspired by a recent attack on a teenager with cerebral palsy, residents of Biloxi are petitioning to enact “Austin’s Law.”  If enacted, the law would amend Mississippi’s state hate crime law to protect against violence not only on the basis of race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender, but also disability.

Read more about the effort here.

It is clear that the problem of violence against people with disabilities deserves urgent attention.  What is not clear is exactly which measures will be most effective in curbing the violence.  Police intervention, research, education, and legislation are just some of the ways the problem is being addressed now.  What do you think the solution is?