Statistics Canada tells us about women with disabilities and sexual assault

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Women with disabilities more at risk of sexual assault: Statistics Canada

sexual assault

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. The federal government is expanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to gender equality to include scientific research. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Voices of people living with disabilities have not been at the forefront of the #MeToo movement, but according to  information released by Statistics Canada Thursday, that group is particularly at risk. The new figures show that in Canada, violent crimes such as sexual assault are almost twice as likely to affect people living with disabilities.

People living with disabilities make up 13.7 per cent of the population.

When it comes to self-reported incidents of violent crime (which includes sexual assault, robbery, or physical assault), 39 per cent of victims live with disabilities. That number increases to 45 per cent when looking at female victims of violent crime.

Many women have been coming forward to allege sexual misconduct as the #MeToo movement sweeps the globe, slamming everyone from Hollywood executives to prominent politicians for their sexually inappropriate behaviour. Very few of the women who have spoken out, however, are living with disabilities.

One woman living with an intellectual disability, named only as “Pauline,” shared her story with NPR in early January. She told the reporter that “two boys took advantage” of her and that she “didn’t like it at all.” Pauline said she was speaking out to try to help other women like her.

According to Statistics Canada, there are many women like Pauline north of the border. They revealed Thursday that women with a mental health related disability or a cognitive disability are over four times more likely to report having been a victim of sexual assault than women without a disability.

Like many other victims of assault who are living with a disability, Pauline’s abuse took place at home. She was living with her caretaker when two boys related to the caretaker raped her in the basement of the family home. That places Pauline among the 30 per cent of disabled victims of assault who are targeted in their own homes — almost double the rate Canadians without disabilities face.

When it comes to domestic violence, women with disabilities lose out again. Statistics Canada found that “the proportion of women with a disability who were victimized by their spouse in the past five years was more than twice as high as the proportion of women without a disability.”

Victims of violent crime who had a disability were also found to face emotional and physical hardships following their victimization.

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