Students with Disabilities

Anyone can be affected by domestic violence and abuse, but people with disabilities are more likely to experience abuse than people without disabilities. Abuse is about power and control and people with disabilities may face unique challenges and barriers to accessing support. 

According to Texas Department of Family Protective Services, 12.5% of abuse occurs in ages 65 and older (3,671,183) and 6.2% of abuse with a disability occurs in ages 18-64 (1,813,660).1 

Women with disabilities are 40% more likely to be victims of abuse, and the abuse they report is longer-lasting and more intense.2

According to the Equal Rights Center, domestic violence can intersect with disability in four key ways: 

  • Domestic violence can cause temporary or permanent disability
  • People with disabilities experience higher rates of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse
  • Violence, assault and abuse against a person with a disability often take on non-“traditional” forms
  • People with disabilities face additional barriers when seeking help

A person with disabilities may experience non-”traditional” signs, including an abusive partner who:3 

  • Tells them that they are “not allowed” to have a pain flare up
  • Steals or withholds their Social Security Disability check
  • Tells them that they are a bad parent or could never be a parent because they have a disability
  • Uses gaslighting to invalidate their disability (for example: “You’re faking it” or “It’s all in your head”) 
  • Uses their disability to shame or humiliate them
  • Instigates sexual activity when they know their partner is not capable of consenting
  • Threatens to “out” their disability to others (for example, someone who has bipolar disorder may not wish to disclose their status, and their abusive partner will use their status to control them)
  • Uses a disability as an excuse for the abuse; tells them that they “deserve” abuse because of their disability

Students with disabilities at the University of Texas have multiple resources to assist you in responding to incidents of power-based violence. The Office of Victim Advocacy & Violence Prevention offers FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL support services to all students. In addition, students with disabilities may access the following resources: 

  • Student Accessibility Services exists to facilitate students’ equal access to university programs and services, promote student learning and development, foster independence and self-advocacy, and provide leadership to the campus on disability issues. You can contact SAS via email or by calling 956-665-7005, Fax 956-665-3840. 
  • Valley Association for Independent Living (VAIL)is organized to serve people with disabilities in the greater Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. VAIL is committed to enabling persons with disabilities to gain effective control and direction of their lives in the home, in the workplace and in the community. VAIL’s goal is to stimulate and promote a growing sense of personal dignity and empowerment through individualized programs designed to provide the tools necessary for maximum independence and community participation. You can contact VAIL via email or by calling toll free: 1-866-400-8245.     
  • Adult Protective Services provides programs for sharing information, solving problems, and improving the quality of services for victims of elder and vulnerable adult mistreatment.  Its mission is to strengthen the capacity of APS at the national, state, and local levels, to effectively and efficiently recognize, report, and respond to the needs of elders and adults with disabilities who are the victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, and to prevent such abuse whenever possible.
  • Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services empowers Deaf and Deaf Blind survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment to transform their lives, while striving to change the beliefs and behaviors that foster and perpetuate violence. We provide comprehensive services to individuals and families, community education, and advocacy on systems and policy issues.
  • Office of Disability Employment has information regarding benefits, civil rights, community life, education, employment, emergency preparedness, health, housing, technology, transportation to promote an inclusive workforce and increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Safety Planning for Domestic Violence Victims with Disabilitiesis a model protocol that supports domestic violence agencies to strengthen and increase their safety planning services to people with disabilities. We also advance in self-determination for people with disabilities by offering safety planning that is aware of environmental and social barriers.
  • Safety Planning for Persons with Disabilities (Advocate Guide)provides guidance in your own personal safety plan that you have in your head or that you have written down on paper. This guide covers the core beliefs and values for helping survivors with disabilities plan for safety, tips on how and when to use a safety plan for a variety of situations experienced by a survivor, and, a safety plan template with local resources for support and safety.


Please view our comprehensive lists of campus resources and community resources. 


1Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2019, from  

­2Disability and Abuse – The Initiative. (n.d.)Retrieved August 13, 2019, from  

3Abuse & people with disabilities | the national domestic violence hotline. (n.d.). Retrieved from