Friday, September 7

Disabled women at risk - 2 to 10 times more likely to be victims of abuse

On Wednesday, the Free Press reported on allegations a provincial respite worker sexually abused her disabled client in acts that included a threesome that impregnated the Winnipeg woman, who has a mental capacity of a six-year-old. The worker is currently on trial and denies the charges.

Disabled women are two to 10 times more likely to be victims of abuse, said Prof. Nancy Hansen, director of the University of Manitoba's interdisciplinary master's program in disability studies. No one knows the precise rate, because no one has been able to study it.

Hansen was on a committee that set out to be the first in North America to find how prevalent abuse is among women with intellectual disabilities. The committee promised anonymity so the Manitoba women could speak frankly without fear of reprisal from caregivers or agencies. The provincial government put up a road block, saying that under the Vulnerable Persons Act, the study's authors had to identify the women who reported abuse and the abusers.

"It's not an accident that no studies have been published," said Marsha Dozar, one of the report's authors and a Community Living Manitoba project officer.

She said it's crucial that vulnerable people be provided with the information about their rights so they can protect themselves from abuse. They've asked Status of Women Canada, which funded the report, to start addressing some of the issues it raised.

Hansen said they didn't ditch the study but took a detour around the province's roadblock, highlighting systemic problems.

Their report, When Bad Things Happen, concluded that some agencies are so desperate for staff in the present labour shortage, they may overlook background and reference checks of prospective employees.

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