Children who live with a physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health disabilities are among the most stigmatized and marginalized of all the world’s children. While all children are at risk of being victims of violence, disabled children find themselves at significantly increased risk because of stigma, negative traditional beliefs and ignorance. Lack of social support, limited opportunities for education, employment or participation in the community further isolates disabled children and their families, leading to increased levels of stress and hardship.
According to researchers, children with a physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health impairment are at increased risk of becoming victims of violence. While the amount of research available on this population is extremely limited, particularly for disabled children in the developing world, current research indicates that violence against disabled children occurs at annual rates at least 1.7 times greater than their non-disabled peers. More targeted studies also indicate reasons for serious concern. For example, one group of researchers report that 90% of individuals with intellectual impairments will experience sexual abuse at some point in the life, and a national survey of deaf adults in found 80% of all deaf individuals surveyed report sexual abuse at some point in their childhood.
Domestic violence against disabled children needs extreme attention since it is difficult to highlight the incident. There are several reasons for this situation as being vulnerable group, lack of awareness of families, shame feelings due to owing disabled children. The vulnerability of this group makes them a potential victim. Society’s ignorance about the violent incidents against disabled children increases the number of undiscovered cases. Societies and their institutions are abusive to the people with disabilities and their families. These people stretched emotionally, physically and financially. They need professional support by experts.
The UNICEF report Violence against disabled children (2005) states that: “Violence against children as a global concern will not end until disabled children are included in all outreach and prevention measures”. In order to combat violence, the report recommends measures that involve both communities and families: awareness raising, the empowerment of families and children, appropriate support and services to cater for their needs. Child maltreatment is harm (or risk of harm) caused to a child by a parent, caregiver, or any other person responsible for the child’s safety.
The World Health Organisation distinguishes five subtypes of child maltreatment: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and negligent treatment and commercial or other exploitation. Children with disabilities are at increased risk of some form of maltreatment; however, over the years research has moved away from treating disability per se as causally linked to maltreatment, towards an understanding of the factors that, associated with disability, lead to an increased risk of maltreatment.
Domestic Violence Shelters and other programs that offer help to victims of domestic violence are often inaccessible to individuals with disability, lacking ramps, sign language interpreters or refusing to allow those with mental illness to use the facilities. For parents with a disabled child, or for a disabled adolescent in a violent household, the lack of accessibility means that no alternative exists should they chose to flee from a violent situation.
Over the last years both the European Union and Members States have taken important STEPS, promoting the rights of disabled people. Today, however, despite the efforts Europe has taken, disabled people are sadly still victims of rights abuses and targets for violence.
We partner of this project, find that situation unacceptable and our policies must therefore focus on protecting them against the violence they suffer. Indeed, freedoms and fundamental rights cannot be effectively exercised without security and an effective guarantee of protection of the most vulnerable.