Survivors with Disabilities

Safe Passage's Disability Services Program addresses the complex and varied needs of domestic violence survivors with physical disabilities and mental health issues. We recognize the unique issues faced by survivors of domestic violence. For some, the disability was a factor in their lives before the domestic violence. For others, the abuse has resulted in a temporary or permanent disability. Other survivors have children with disabilities or chronic health problems that require special consideration. Our Disability Services Advocate integrates the emotional and advocacy needs of survivors with their specific disability or concern. Safety planning, mobility, and communication are all impacted by a person's disability.

Our Disability Services Program includes these components:

  • Counselors with specialized training on the cross-over between domestic violence and disability and the resulting impact
  • Modified safety planning that specifies options for people with disabilities
  • Assistance and advocacy with partner organizations in the community. These organizations have entered into specific agreements with Safe Passage and in many cases have received cross-training on these issues.
  • A shelter room designated for an adult and/or child with a temporary or permanent disability, with a fully accessible bathroom and kitchen facilities
  • Our Disability Services Program understands that women with disabilities are more likely than non-disabled women to experience domestic violence. The impacts of violence can be more complex and far-reaching for people with disabilities.

People with disabilities may experience additional forms of abuse:

  • Disability-related emotional abuse takes the forms of emotional abandonment and rejection; threatening, belittling, and blaming; denial of disability; and accusations of faking.
  • Disability-related physical abuse takes the forms of physical restraint or confinement; withholding orthotic devices or medication; and refusing to provide assistance with essential personal needs, such as toileting, hygiene, and eating.
  • Disability-related sexual abuse takes the forms of demanding or expecting sexual activity in return for help.
  • Certain disability-related settings, such as hospitals, doctors' offices, and special transportation services, may create a restrictive environment by separating disabled women from their mobility devices, imposing restraint, or forcing isolation from others who could provide assistance, thus diminishing their ability to defend themselves.

Our Disability Services Program addresses the complex issues faced by survivors with disabilities. The program is unique among domestic violence service providers in western Massachusetts. Our shelter is one of the few fully accessible shelters in the network of Massachusetts domestic violence shelters, and our office is fully accessible.