Disability and sexual violence

The research project, titled ‘Disability and Sexual Violence’, was commissioned by the Flemish Government - Agency for Internal Affairs - Department of Equal Opportunities, Integration & Immigration - Equal Opportunities Team, to investigate the prevalence of sexual violence among individuals with disabilities in Belgium.

The main objective of the project was to enhance our understanding of the extent of exposure to sexual violence within this specific minority group and to analyze the relationship between minority identification and sexual violence.

Previous research on sexual violence has already demonstrated that individuals who experience social exclusion are at a higher risk of becoming victims. In addition to social exclusion, individuals with disabilities also commonly face stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. In this study, we aim to examine the specific vulnerabilities and experiences of sexual violence among individuals with disabilities.

The data for this research were collected between October 10, 2019, and January 1, 2021, as part of the project 'Understanding the MEchanisms, NAture, MAgnitude and Impact of Sexual geweld in Belgium' (UN-MENAMAIS). This was done through a nationally representative sample of Belgian citizens aged 16 to 99. Within the total sample, 14.48% reported living with a disability and/or chronic illness. The prevalence of sexual violence was measured using behaviorally specific questions based on the WHO definition of sexual violence.

Individuals with disabilities exhibited a higher prevalence of hands-on sexual violence (37.8%) compared to those without disabilities or chronic illness (29.4%). Persons with disabilities also reported lower mental health, quality of life, and well-being. However, they reported lower levels of risky alcohol and cannabis use but similar levels of illegal drug use and self-harming behavior. Sociodemographic data, mental health, and coping factors were all associated with a higher risk of sexual violence. It is evident that individuals with disabilities are at a higher risk of sexual violence due to their vulnerabilities. Prevention of (re)victimization should be a priority for policymakers, researchers, and healthcare providers.

Funding agencies

Donors: Vlaamse Overheid - Agentschap binnenlands bestuur - Afdeling Gelijke Kansen, Inburgering & Integratie  (Kabinet Bart Somers)


Team: Ines Keygnaert, Lotte De Schrijver & Lisa Fomenko


January 01, 2023 - April 30, 2023

Project status

Project closed

Team members

Ms. Elizaveta Fomenko
Ms. Ines Keygnaert




Interpersonal violence
Sexual health and wellbeing

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