Hesperian Health Guides

Preventing abuse

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 14: Abuse, violence, and self-defense > Preventing abuse

One of the ways women with disabilities can be safer from abuse is to become more involved in the community. Talking with others can help you find support.

  • Communicate with more than one person. If at first other people find it hard to understand your speech, they will understand you better with practice. Drawing simple pictures can also help.
  • Talk about abuse with other women you trust. It can be hard to explain what happened, and you may be ashamed or afraid that your abuser will find out. You may also worry that no one will believe you. Sometimes you might feel worse after you talk, especially if the person you are telling does not listen. But talking with someone is usually the best way to get help. See information about forming support groups.

a woman speaking.
I talk to women elders I trust when I need assistance and support.
a woman speaking.
I try to calm myself down and talk directly to the person who isn't treating me well. I make it clear that I don't like the way I was treated.
a woman with a baby speaking.
People say things like, "This girl is worthless." To get rid of the feeling of worthlessness, I discovered I could do things with my hands. Knowing my own skills helped take away some of the pain of the verbal abuse.
a woman with 2 small children speaking.
When I was a schoolgirl, a boy pushed me down and took away my crutches. I told my teacher and she punished him. She also advised me to always walk in the company of other children.
a woman using sign language.
I was lonely with only my husband knowing how to use sign language. Teaching some sign language to other women in the community helped me make friends and do more things with other people. Now I have the support of other women and I can ask for help when I need to.
a woman in a wheelchair shoveling dirt while 2 other women plant seeds and shells peas. Women with different abilities can exchange or trade work if they each do something they are good at.
  • Do your work with other women. People are less likely to threaten you or treat you badly where other people can see. If you are hurt in a public place, other women may be too scared or ashamed to do anything. But you might be able to get help from these women later.
  • Reach out for support from other women and with community groups if you or someone you know has been abused.
  • Talk with a health worker if you have been physically hurt.

Abusers often break down a woman’s self-esteem, making her believe she (and her children) will be unable to survive without the abuser. Remember, you can survive without the abuser.

See What you can do to be safer from violence.

a blind woman speaking.
My husband always said he had done me a favor by marrying me. Since my family was poor, he accused me of marrying him for his wealth. He told me I would never be able to get another partner, and he abused me. After consulting women lawyers, and talking with my husband's relatives, I decided to leave him.

a woman speaking.
A woman in my community was physically abused by her husband after she gave birth to a disabled girl. Eventually, she made the decision to go back to her parents' house and get out of the marriage.

a woman using sign language.
For my friend, the abuse started when she became disabled. Her husband refused to help her and started sleeping with other women. My friend went back to her family, where she received love and good care. Her condition improved and she became healthier and happier.