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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1997 Dec;78(12 Suppl 5):S34-8.

Prevalence of abuse of women with physical disabilities.

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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77046, USA.



Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of women with physical disabilities is a problem largely unrecognized by rehabilitation service providers. This article documents the prevalence of abuse of women with physical disabilities compared to women without physical disabilities.


Case-comparison study using written survey. Data were analyzed using chi 2 analyses and the Mann-Whitney U Wilcoxon rank sum W tests.


General community.


A sample of 860 women, 439 with physical disabilities and 421 without physical disabilities, was compiled from women responding to a national sexuality survey.


The women were asked if they had ever experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. If they answered yes, they were asked to identify the perpetrator(s) of the abuse and when the abuse began and ended.


Sixty-two percent of both groups of women had experienced some type of abuse at some point in their lives. Of women who had experienced abuse, half of each group had experienced physical or sexual abuse. Husbands or live-in partners were the most common perpetrators of emotional or physical abuse for both groups. Male strangers were the most common perpetrators of sexual abuse for both groups. Women with physical disabilities also were more likely to be abused by their attendants and by health care providers. Thirteen percent of women with physical disabilities described experiencing physical or sexual abuse in the past year.


Women with physical disabilities appear to be at risk for emotional, physical, and sexual abuse to the same extent as women without physical disabilities. Prevalence of abuse by husbands or live-in partners in this study is similar to estimates of lifetime occurrence of domestic violence for women living in the United States. Women with physical disabilities are more at risk for abuse by attendants or health care providers. They are also more likely to experience a longer duration of abuse than women without physical disabilities.

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