Disabled people nearly three times as likely to experience domestic abuse as non-disabled, study finds

Disabled people were nearly three times more likely to have experienced domestic abuse last year than non-disabled people, Office for National Statistics data shows.

Rates of abuse were particularly high among young disabled people and those with learning disabilities, mental health needs or social or behavioural impairments.

In the year ending March 2020, around one in seven (14.3%) disabled people aged 16 to 59 years experienced any form of domestic abuse in England and Wales, compared with 1 in 20 non-disabled people of the same age (5.1%). The gap has widened slightly since the year ending March 2019.

Guidance on supporting disabled victims of domestic abuse

Community Care Inform Adults users can gain further information and guidance on this topic by reading our quick guides to domestic abuse and disability and domestic abuse and learning disabilities.

Among disabled women, 17.5% experienced any domestic abuse from 2019-20, while the rate for disabled men was 9.2%. By age, rates were highest among disabled people aged 16 to 24 (19.5%), and those this was also the case among non-disabled people, the rate almost three times smaller (7.3%).

The experience of domestic abuse also varied with impairment type, with people who reported a mental health (20.5%), a social or behavioural (20.0%) or a learning impairment (19.1%) having the highest rates, though the ONS said comparisons should be made with caution.

Disabled victims endure abuse for longer

Liz Thompson, director of external relations at domestic abuse charity SafeLives, said that as well as facing an increased likelihood of domestic abuse, its own research had found that disabled victims also experienced more severe and frequent abuse over longer periods of time than non-disabled victims.

“Our data reveals that disabled victims typically endure abuse for an average of 3.3 years before accessing support, compared to 2.3 years for non-disabled victims.

“That is why there needs to be dedicated funding for disabled and deaf ‘by and for’ specialist domestic abuse organisations across the country, alongside ensuring that disabled survivors of abuse are involved in designing better support and awareness raising messages,” Thompson said.