Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.

Disability, frailty, substance and alcohol dependency and mental health issues all raise the risk that someone will experience domestic abuse. This may come from someone living in their household or from a partner.

The link between domestic abuse and disability

According to research, disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled women. The abuse they experience is likely to continue for a longer time and their injuries also tend to be more serious. It’s not just disabled women who are at higher risk of domestic violence, disabled men are too.

Why does domestic abuse happen more frequently to disabled people?

It’s harder for disabled people to defend themselves, get help and get away from the abuse. When one person in a relationship or household is disabled it is easier for the abuser to get away with the abuse.

Ill-health or a disability may prevent a person leaving their abusive situation if they depend on their abuser’s help and support with care. They may fear being placed in institutional accommodation or becoming isolated in the home. Their disability may make it difficult for them to reach out to sources of support, especially if their disability affects their ability to speak or communicate.

Often there are few opportunities to tell someone about the abuse without the abuser being present. Sometimes the main family carer is viewed by others as being ‘a saint’ and the disabled person worries that people may not believe them if they speak up about the abuse.

With some types of disability, there are specific risks of domestic abuse. For example, couples with learning disabilities may find it harder to access appropriate couples’ counselling and relationship support. Another example is that adults with learning disabilities are at higher risk of being forced into marriage.

Unpaid family carers can also be abused by the person they care for. Carers can become socially isolated, which puts them at risk of future domestic violence. Carers may feel pressure to behave like ‘a saint’ and endure the abuse. They may feel trapped in their caring role.

What are the signs of domestic abuse?

Sometimes the domestic abuse will be very similar to the domestic violence non-disabled people experience but sometimes it’s not. Abusers may exploit their partner or family member’s disability, frailty or other support needs in unique ways.

An abusive partner may try to control their partner by ignoring their care needs, removing their mobility equipment or sensory and communication devices to reduce their independence or using medication to sedate the person.

An abusive partner may also deliberately mistranslate sign language in order to manipulate situations, take away the person’s disability benefit payments or deliberately not assist them to the toilet.

What can be done about domestic abuse of disabled or vulnerable adults?

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, we will work with you. We will listen to your concerns and fears. We’ll assess the risk, discuss your options and help you with safety planning. We’ll then refer you to sources of support.

Depending on your circumstances, we may start a safeguarding enquiry. By bringing several professionals together in a safeguarding enquiry, we can plan how to help and support you. Every disabled or vulnerable adult has different needs and wishes. Bringing everyone together helps us to create a personalised approach suited to your particular needs.

If the risks are serious, then your case may be referred to a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). Sharing information through the MARAC meeting allows a range of professionals to work together to draw up a high-level action plan to reduce the domestic violence.

I’m worried about someone. What should I do?

If you are worried about yourself or someone else experiencing domestic abuse, please get in touch. Don’t delay! We are here to help you.

No one should endure domestic abuse. You can help put a stop to it by getting in touch. If there is risk of immediate harm, contact the emergency services on 999.

Otherwise, contact the Islington Access and Advice Service (Adult Social Services) on 020 7527 2299 or email Our Minicom number is 020 7527 6475.

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