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Causes of Abuse, Why it goes Unreported

August 20, 2014

Depressed-and-Filing-for-the-Disability-Tax-CreditOf the many questions that arise around the subject of abuse, perhaps the most common is this: Why? Why does abuse occur?

We are beginning to understand that abuse occurs in the disability community more than other communities. Even though there are some consistent (yet maddening) reasons why people with disabilities are targets of abuse, not much is known about why perpetrators strike.

Unfortunately, more times than not, victims do not report instances of abuse. This is especially true in Canada’s disability community.

As we seek to understand why abuse affects people with disabilities, let’s explore some reasons why perpetrators strike and why victims do not report incidents of abuse.

What Causes Abuse?

Before discussing possible motives of abuse, it is important to mention that inflicting harm on another person is never okay. Nevertheless, The People’s Law School applies three possible reasons why perpetrators act abusively towards people with disabilities:

  • Caregiver stress: Much time and energy goes into caring for a person with disabilities. In some cases, when a caregiver lacks proper life balance and periods of respite, he or she might act abusively. In situations such as this, an excuse for the wrongful action may be that the “disability ‘provokes’ abuse.”
  • Negative role models: An abusive person might have learned patterns of abuse because he or she was the victim at an earlier point in life.
  • Negative stereotypes: Some people apply negative stereotypes to individuals living with disability. These notions are damaging to the disability community at large because they imply that people with disabilities are “less than” other individuals.

There are no excuses for abuse. People who harm others have no justification for their actions.

Even though the perpetrator is in the wrong, the only way to right these wrongs is to make sure incidents of abuse are reported. Unfortunately, statistics show that the majority of people with disabilities who are abused do not file reports. Why?

Why Does Abuse Go Unreported?

According to The People’s Law School, there are four common reasons why abuse goes unreported:

  • Fear: People might fear reporting abuse because they think “going public” will madden the abuser, thus making abuse worse. Or, they might fear that life circumstances will change as a result of reporting.
  • Economic Dependence: People with disabilities often look to support systems for financial assistance. If people in the support system are abusive, reporting them may imply that the person with disability will be financially cut off.
  • Isolation: Often times, people with disabilities feel isolated from community and do not know of a trusted place to report incidents of abuse.
  • Lack of access: Even worse, sometimes people with disabilities do not have access to proper authorities because they are unable to connect with trustworthy assistance or do not know how.
  • Credibility issues: Occasionally, people with disabilities try to report incidents of abuse but are brushed off because they are seen as “unreliable.”

It is never okay to harm someone. Any incident of abuse inflicted on any person ought to be reported. Unfortunately, it seems there are legitimate reasons why abuse in the disability community goes unreported. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all Canadians to be aware of abuse in the disability community and report it to proper authorities.

Reporting abuse is only one way to eliminate mistreatment of people with disabilities. In a follow up blog post we will discuss how Canadians of all ability levels can help people with disabilities shield themselves from abuse.

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