Mounting empirical evidence suggests that, compared to women without disabilities, women with disabilities are more likely to experience interpersonal violence (IPV). However, there is extremely limited research attention on IPV against women with spinal cord injury (SCI), a particularly understudied and underserved population.
To conduct the first known examination of lifetime IPV experience in women with SCI, to explore demographic and disability-related correlates of IPV, and to examine the health impacts of IPV.
The sample included 175 women with traumatic SCI from across the United States who enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of an online psychological health promotion intervention. The data, which included a brief measure of lifetime abuse, were collected as part of the baseline survey administered prior to randomization to the intervention or control conditions.
The majority (55%) of the women described experiencing some abuse in their lifetime, with 43% reporting physical abuse, 32% reporting sexual abuse, and 23% reporting disability-related abuse. Sixteen percent of the women indicated that they had experienced all three (physical, sexual, disability) types of abuse. Few demographic and disability characteristics were related to overall lifetime IPV experience; however, disability characteristics were associated with disability-related IPV victimization. In addition, those with a history of IPV had poorer self-reported health and greater depression.
This study suggests that IPV is common among women with SCI. More research is needed to understand the prevalence, risk factors, and consequences of IPV against women with SCI to help inform policy and practice.