More than half of men who have disabilities have experienced nonpartner physical violence, mostly by strangers, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found. The findings highlight the need for violence prevention and intervention programs that are inclusive of and responsive to the needs of men and women with disabilities.
Zarintaj A. Malihi, Ph.D., of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and colleagues analyzed data from the 2019 New Zealand Family Violence Survey/He Koiora Matapopore, in which face-to-face interviews were conducted with 2,887 New Zealanders aged 16 years or older between 2017 and 2019. The study was designed to determine the prevalence rates of nonpartner physical and sexual violence reported by people with physical, intellectual, psychological, and multiple disabilities compared with the prevalence reported by people without disabilities. Questions about violence were drawn from the WHO Multi-Country Study on Violence Against Women questionnaire and adapted to include men.
Overall, more people with disabilities reported nonpartner physical and sexual violence experience than those without disabilities. Among men with disabilities, 56.2% experienced lifetime nonpartner physical violence and 5.6% experienced lifetime nonpartner sexual violence. In 59.3% of cases, this violence was perpetrated by strangers. Among women with disabilities, 15.4% experienced lifetime nonpartner physical violence and 11.1% experienced lifetime nonpartner sexual violence. In 59.7% of cases, this violence was perpetrated by parents and relatives.
People with psychological disabilities reported the highest prevalence rates of nonpartner physical and sexual violence. Women with psychological disabilities had 1.97 times the odds of experiencing nonpartner physical violence and 2.65 the odds of experiencing nonpartner sexual violence compared with women who had no psychological disabilities. Men with psychological disabilities had 2.5 the odds of experiencing nonpartner physical violence and 43.74 times the odds of experiencing nonpartner sexual violence compared with men who had no psychological disabilities.
“Policy and practice implications [of the findings] include the need for the development of prevention and intervention programs that meet the needs of people with different types of disabilities,” Malihi and colleagues wrote. “Programs need to be implemented in ways that are accessible and appropriate, considering physical needs and the needs of those with intellectual and psychological disabilities because these individuals may have difficulty in understanding danger or in communicating their experiences in ways that others believe.”
The vast majority of perpetrators of nonpartner physical and sexual violence upon people with disabilities were men. Men were the main perpetrators in 84.7% of nonpartner physical violence experienced by men with disabilities and 55.3% of nonpartner violence experienced by women with disabilities. Men were the perpetrators in 80% of cases of nonpartner sexual violence against men with disabilities and all cases of nonpartner sexual violence against women with disabilities.
“The findings also speak to the importance of addressing social norms about masculinity and power,” the researchers wrote. “The social norms that support men’s use of violence need to be addressed as part of national prevention campaigns.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric Services article “Victimization and Perpetration of Violence Involving Persons With Mood and Other Psychiatric Disorders and Their Relatives.”
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