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Canadians with disabilities twice as likely to experience violence: Statistics Canada

Canadian Press THE CANADIAN PRESS

New data from Statistics Canada says Canadians with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violent victimization as the able-bodied population.

The figures, drawn heavily from the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, found rates were similar among both disabled men and women.

Statistics Canada says nearly four in 10 disabled people 15 years of age or older and not living in institutions report experiencing robbery, sexual or physical assault, a figure they say is about double what's found in the general population.

The numbers show the issue was most acute among people with cognitive or mental health disabilities, who reported victimization rates four times higher than the general population.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto human rights lawyer Lorin MacDonald says these disturbing statistics regarding violence against people with disabilities are nothing new, and may well be much higher due to under-reporting. 

“It is well-documented that abuse is about power and control,” she says. “As many people with disabilities are dependent on others, speaking out about violence may put them in danger through the withdrawal of critical supports.”

MacDonald says people with disabilities often have unique challenges in accessing support, seeking help and sharing information on the violence they are experiencing.

“Violence against people with disabilities is often different from that experienced by people without disabilities, such as withholding finances or assistive devices, stressing the need to be compliant, infantilization and the perception of people with disabilities as asexual beings, or perpetrating sexual acts when it is clear the person is not capable of consenting,” she says.

The data suggests disabled women were considerably more likely to report sexual assault than non-disabled women, and say one in three of the violent crimes disabled people experience take place in their own homes.

Members of the disabled community say the numbers likely understate the severity of the problem and say society does not do enough to protect a vulnerable population.

with files from AdvocateDaily.com

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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