298 Chapter 14: Abuse, violence, and self-defense
Girls are especially at risk for sexual abuse because they are smaller, weaker, and
less aware of the social rules and practices around sex in their communities. Girls
may be abused by a father or mother, an uncle or other relative, or by a brother or
by other children. If a girl tells someone about abuse in the family, the family often
protects the abuser—and blames the girl. But it is never right to blame the person
who has been abused, especially not a child.
Girls and women with disabilities are at even greater risk for being
abused—especially if they are weakened by their disabilities, have difficulty
communicating, or are not fully accepted by their communities. This can make the
abusers believe women with disabilities are easy targets and their communities
will not care about what happens to them.
A disabled woman can be sexually abused by her husband, by other family
members, by someone who takes care of her, or by a stranger. Most often, a woman
is raped by a man she knows. And because a disabled woman’s family may not have
allowed her to be in social situations where she could make friends and learn about
sexual relationships between men and women, she may think she has no other
choice but to accept abuse. She may even think that no one but the abuser will be
attracted to her.
There are many ways sexual abuse happens, but only sometimes do people think
of them as sexual assault or rape. Sexual abuse means any sexual contact a woman
does not want. A woman or girl is sexually abused when she:
• has been raped or forced to have sex she does not want.
• is touched on her breasts or genitals, or on other parts of her body, without her
• is forced to have sex with someone so she can keep her job, or with a teacher so
she can get a passing grade.
• is forced to have sex in exchange for care.
• has sex in exchange for money or food, because she has no other way to
• has to pose for sex pictures (pornography) in exchange for money, food, or care.
• has to hear or watch sex between other people.
• is teased or talked to sexually, or has to listen to jokes or sexual language that
make her uncomfortable.
• is made to look at pornography.
Sexual abuse can happen to any girl or woman. It is never her fault.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007