Addressing Trauma in the Disability Community

Categories: General

Did you know that higher rates of sexual violence and/or intimate partner violence are experienced by those that are disabled? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2009–2014 National Crime Victimization Survey, people with disabilities were more than three times more likely than nondisabled people to experience serious violent crime such as rape and sexual assault. 

Think about that for a minute.

We already have a horrifying level of violence against each other in this country, and members of our community that already face basic barriers to their everyday lives are also being preyed on because of that fact. How do we even go about addressing that reality and eliminating the structures that allow for it to continue?

Like other examples we’ve given in the past, acknowledgement of this truth is the first step. SAMHSA defines individual trauma as an event or circumstance resulting in: physical harm, emotional harm, and/or life-threatening harm. And make no mistake—trauma is a natural result when we harm other individuals due to their disability—both those experiencing temporary or lifelong conditions.

Our next step becomes taking some sort of explicit action. Here at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, we believe in trauma-informed care. What does that look like? Starting the groundwork internally and expanding these efforts into our larger community.

Our current efforts include:

  • Engagement centering diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice (DEIRJ) for well-being.
  • Developing culturally inclusive & sensitive supports, engagement tools and reference materials through the socio-ecological model (individual, relationship, community/organization).

We recognize that the disabled community is not simply a group of people we serve through our general counseling or sexual violence support services. This isn’t a pocket of people waiting to be saved. That infantilizing trope does more harm than good. Through no cause of our own, all of us have a chance of experiencing disability at some point in our lives.

Some of us wake up every day with a self-designed system for navigating life, knowing all our needs won’t be met. That trauma is real and worth further research (here’s one paper to start with). If you’re looking into other steps you can take on the individual level, we invite you to review our two previous posts: