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Domestic violence of a disabled person refers to the physical, psychological and/or sexual mistreatment by a relative or caregiver.
It is believed the single largest factor affecting the extraordinarily high incidence of domestic violence against disabled people is the extent/makeup of their "families"/domestic households. Many disabled people, to live their everyday lives, may depend on a variety of people to provide them with support and assistance.
Therefore "family'/domestic households for disabled people can be understood to include not only parents, partners, girlfriends, boyfriends and other relatives but also friends, neighbours and caregivers.
Limited understanding and acceptance of what some disabled people require to have a home/domestic household has resulted in some New Zealanders being marginalised and excluded from the protection, safety, support and services provided by the Domestic Violence Act.
Having a disability or the nature of any disability, does not stop the variety of places disabled people live in from being their home. Nor does it stop the kinds of domestic relationships that are established, frequently on a paid basis for caregivers, being close, personal/intimate domestic relationships.
The Domestic Violence Act creates ambiguity, (and in some cases exclusion), in regards to whether some disabled people who require the services of support workers and care-givers, receive the safety, protection and services of the Domestic Violence Act 1995.
There is exclusion in the Act, in 4.2(a) (ii) which says an employer – employee relationship is not regarded as sharing a household.
The Act does define the meaning of domestic relationship to include, 4.1(c) person who ordinarily shares a house with the other person; or (d) has a close, personal relationship with the person.
In defining the meaning of domestic violence the Domestic Violence Act says in relation to any person, means violence against that person, by any other person with whom that person has or has been in a domestic relationship.
Domestic violence is about power and control in the home. It is the same dynamics, when the domestic violence is in the different kinds of homes/households disabled people require, to live as independently as possible.
International research shows;
………"regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class, women with disabilities are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate of at least two times greater than non-disabled women, yet are much less likely to receive assistance or services" …… (WWDA998:5)
For victims with disabilities, the concept of intimacy and who participates in an intimate relationship is not limited to traditional categories of husband, spouse, partner, boyfriend, and significant other. Intimate contact by caregivers or family members gives perpetrators access and opportunity to abuse another person. Intimate contact is key to understanding when and where abuse happens regardless of who is perpetrating the abuse.
The following chart, "Comparing Levels of Intimacy," illustrates similar abusive tactics used by intimate partners against women without disabilities and paid caretakers against women with disabilities. When making a comparison between the levels of intimacy, note that caretakers have access to many intimate aspects of the disabled person's life, and sometimes caretakers have more access to the victim than many "intimate partner" abusers. (Note: This chart is not a comprehensive list of activities or function levels; it is intended only for comparison purposes.)
Can affect person who
|Intimate partner of women without disabilities||Caretaker abuse of women with disabilities|
|has mobility loss||Partner is not usually in control of bathing.||Caretaker has full control of when, where and how bathing takes place, and must by function touch all private areas of the body.|
|needs life-sustaining and enhancing medicine||A partner usually has to hide activity when abusing persons with their medications.||May have authorized access to dispense medications (full power and control).|
|is incontinent||Partner not usually in control over partner's toileting.||Is responsible to care for hygiene, catheterization,diapering needs. Abuser is often paid to exert full power and control over victim's body.|
|Interaction with others|
|is deaf-blind||Partner usually has indirect control of a hearing victim's conversations with others||Caretaker of deaf-blind person usually has full power and control to direct and interpret (as they wish) the victim's conversations with non-signing persons.|
|has a cognitive disability||A partner may work for partial to full control of a victim's banking.||Caretaker may have legally authorized full power and control over the victim's funds|
Source: Minnesota Centre Against Violence and Abuse (MINCAVA)