Disability and sexual violence

Authors & affiliation

Lisa Fomenko, Lotte De Schrijver, Ines Keygnaert


Previous Belgian research on sexual violence (SV) showed that people who experience social othering are more at risk of victimization than those who do not. Persons with disabilities (PwD) are socially othered and are often face stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. This study aimed to explore the specific vulnerabilities and experiences of PwD regarding SV. Methods: Data were collected through an online survey in a nationally representative sample of 4,459 persons (16-69 years) and via face-to-face interview with 485 older adults (70+ years) in Belgium. Older adults were randomly selected via a random walk finding approach. Within the total sample, 14·48% indicated to live with a disability and/or chronic illness. SV prevalence was measured using behaviourally specific questions based on the WHO definition of SV. Findings: PwD showed a higher prevalence of SV (37·8%) compared to those without disabilities or chronic illness (29·4%). PwD also reported lower mental health, quality of life, and well-being. Yet, they reported lower levels of hazardous alcohol and cannabis use, but similar levels of illegal drug use and self-harming behaviour. Sociodemographic, mental health, and coping factors were associated with higher SV risk. Interpretations: PwD have a higher risk of SV due to vulnerabilities. They need attention from policymakers, researchers, and healthcare workers to prevent (re)victimization.

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Staff members:

Ines Keygnaert

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