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Disability and Domestic Abuse

Since 2020, domestic abuse rates have risen by 12 percent in England and Wales. And the increase is even higher among people with disabilities, who are three times more likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled people. To combat these distressing statistics and learn more about the immediate impact on the sight loss community, the Vision Foundation commissioned SafeLives to research experiences of domestic abuse among blind and partially sighted people.

Consisting of a literature review, interviews, and a focus group of 78 blind or partially sighted victims and survivors, the research provided insights into how domestic abuse affects the sight loss community. Key among these insights is the fact that there are 2.19 million blind and partially sighted people experiencing domestic abuse in England alone. Abusers often take advantage of their victims’ visual impairment by moving important items around the house so that the victim struggles to find them, or by withholding essential support such as sighted guiding or accessible equipment. This demeaning form of abuse leaves victims feeling isolated and unsupported in already challenging environments.

The Vision Foundation and SafeLives now call for a united and multifaceted response that includes training for those working with people with visual impairment and the implementation of domestic abuse champions for visual impairment organizations. These initiatives aim to create a safe space for domestic abuse victims who may not previously have had access to such a resource.

What can ophthalmologists do to help? In her article on victims of intimate partner violence, Erin Shriver offers useful guidance on identifying and appropriately referring any cases of domestic abuse you encounter, including those of blind and partially sighted people. The report also features useful recommendations for professionals.

If you want to share your experiences or thoughts on this topic, please let us know in the comments below or at [email protected].

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About the Author
Sarah Healey

Communicating stories in a way that is accessible to all was one of the focal points of my Creative Writing degree. Although writing magical realism is a fun endeavor (and one I still dabble in), getting to the heart of human stories has always been the driving motivator behind my writing. At Texere, I am able to connect with the people behind scientific breakthroughs and share their stories in a way that is impactful and engaging.

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