Defining Abuse: A Study of the Perceptions of People with Disabilities Regarding Abuse Directed at People with Disabilities


  • Sampada Gandhi Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute
  • Denise Goobic Palermo State of New Jersey
  • Bernadette West UMDNJ-School of Public Health



Disabilities, abuse


While abuse in the literature has been defined by researchers and providers as physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse and neglect, it is not clear how persons with disabilities (PWD) define abuse and who they see as likely abusers. This paper explores the issue of abuse with PWD themselves. It asks about the types of behaviors identified as abusive and who PWD see as likely abusers. Six focus groups were conducted with members of NJ self-advocacy groups. While PWD defined abuse using traditional categories, they also provided examples of situations involving infringement of rights. Perpetrators were more likely to be known rather than unknown and, very often, were family members. Our findings suggest the importance of exploring critical issues such as abuse with affected populations themselves. The findings also suggest the need for self-advocacy training and training for family members, caregivers and criminal justice personnel. KEY WORDS: Disabilities, abuse.