Plain Language Summary: Intimate Partner Violence & People with Disabilities

Domestic violence can mean the abuse of children, other family members, and romantic partners. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is one example of domestic violence and specifically means the abuse of a current or past romantic partner. Every year more than 10 million people in the United States experience IPV. But many people who experience IPV do not report it. People with disabilities are more likely to experience IPV and have more challenges with reporting than people without disabilities.

IPV includes many kinds of abuse: physical, emotional/verbal, psychological, sexual, and financial/exploitation. Some examples of physical abuse are hitting, damaging property, and keeping someone from eating or sleeping. Damaging or keeping someone from using their wheelchair or communication device is abuse too. Emotional/verbal abuse includes name-calling, keeping a partner away from friends and family, and saying they deserve the abuse because of their disability. Psychological abuse can include telling a partner that their disability is not real. Psychological abuse can be when someone threatens to kill or hurt themselves, their partner, children, or animals. Sexual abuse can be forcing someone to do sexual acts or making them scared to say no. Also, touching a person with a disability in an appropriate way while assisting with hygiene or dressing is sexual abuse. Financial/economical abuse is misusing or controlling a partner’s money, credit, or ability to have a job.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult. One recommendation is to make a safety plan. A safety plan lists steps to take when you are in a bad situation and who you can call, such as friends, families, and resources. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to create a safety plan or visit their website for more information. This information is also available in Spanish. The National Domestic Violence Hotline also provides services for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

IPV is never okay. If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV, please know there is help available and your well-being is important. Crime victim compensation programs can help pay for mental health counseling and other services. You can find your state’s program at, which has a Spanish translation option.

If a loved one tells you they are experiencing IPV, it is important to be supportive. You can also let them know resources are available. You can use this domestic violence resource locator to find IPV resources nearby.

Read the full Intimate Partner Violence & People with Disabilities Fact Sheet

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