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Domestic violence: how can the intersectionality of victims be addressed? - By Assia Buono

Gender based, intimate partner violence affects 1 in 3 women worldwide. The World Health Organization shows that 35% of women globally will experience at least one of the kinds of violence that, if not prevented or solved, will result in femicide (WHO, 2017). The potential types of abuse include physical where there is visible harm and bruising, emotional such as name calling, social where having friendships or external contact is prohibited by the offender to the victim, and financial so that the victim becomes dependent (Stewart et al, 2013). This essay looks at violence that happens in the home, and what makes the most vulnerable victims by inhibiting chances of survival.

The focus of domestic violence social movements focuses on awareness. Making citizens knowledgeable of the kinds of abuse so that they can be recognised, and avoided, is seen as an effective preventive model for interpersonal violence (Alan et al 2016). As with analysing any kind of social phenomenon, there are more advantaged victims than others. Implementing awareness benefits victims who have the freedom and ability to leave an abusive relationship. Meanwhile, leaving behind the victims who are dependent on their abusers to survive.

Pre-existing disadvantaged conditions such as poverty, lack of housing, ethnic minority and disability decrease the chances of survival in an intimate partner relationship, in particular the lack of financial independence (Postmus et al, 2011). Women with disabilities are 37.3% more likely than able bodied women to experience domestic violence, with 19.7% reporting a history of unwanted sex compared to 8.2% of women without disabilities (Harpur & Stark, 2015). The impairment creates a dependence on the abuser, for example as a survivor who requires assistance on the toilet and the perpetrator neglects her for hours (Thiara et al, 2012:37). The disability enhances the violence occurring and transforms the economic circumstance for the victim.

A possible objection to the advocacy of domestic violence is that it won’t be effective. Implementation of domestic violence legislation can result in benefitting the perpetrator, and furthering disadvantaging the victim. As the abuser holds a position of power, he is seen as trustworthy and the police will accept his version of the story, as opposed to the disabled woman’s (Douglas & Stark, 2010:44-53). Since victims are not always assumed as an independent agent and legal subject, their existing vulnerability has to be taken into account and create a preventive system of domestic violence that includes the most disadvantaged.

Violence affects those who are already disadvantaged by social categories other than being a woman. The lack of financial control and physical disability creates a dependence on the abuser, making it exponentially difficult for the victim to leave the cycle of abuse. In addition to advocacy, supports that focus on the rehabilitation of women after a toxic relationship can provide women the kind of independence necessary for survival (Sullivan, 2018). The risk of bias towards the perpetrator is imminent, but it’s a human rights issue that legislation must be enforced to criminalise abusive behaviour towards women, especially with disabilities since the risk of abuse increases. Only then, can a victim become a survivor.


Alan, H., Yilmaz, S. D., Filiz, E., & Arioz, A. (2016). Domestic violence awareness and prevention among married women in central anatolia. Journal of Family Violence, 31(6), 711-719. doi:

Harpur, P., Douglas, H. (2014) Disability and domestic violence: protecting survivors' human rights. Griffith Law Review, 23:3, 405-433. DOI: 10.1080/10383441.2014.1000241.

Douglas, H., Stark, T. (2010) Stories from Survivors: Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice Interventions. University of Queensland: Australia.

Postmus, J. L., Plummer, S.-B., McMahon, S., Murshid, N. S., & Kim, M. S. (2012). Understanding Economic Abuse in the Lives of Survivors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(3), 411–430.

Stewart, C. C., Langan, D., & Hannem, S. (2013). Victim Experiences and Perspectives on Police Responses to Verbal Violence in Domestic Settings. Feminist Criminology, 8(4), 269–294.

Sullivan, C.M. (2018). Understanding How Domestic Violence Support Services Promote Survivor Well-being: A Conceptual Model. J Fam Viol 33, 123–131.

Thiara, R. et al. (2012). Disabled Women and Domestic Violence: Responding to the Experiences of Survivors. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

World Health Organization, (2017). Violence against women. Geneva: Switzerland.

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