March is recognized as the National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities has many events, conferences, and programs to raise awareness. We would like to talk about how domestic violence ties into developmental disabilities, and how we can raise awareness about the dangers of domestic violence for people with developmental disabilities.
Understanding how domestic violence works
Domestic violence is very difficult to understand for anyone lucky enough to have not seen it up close. Such people ask the same question again and again – if the person was being abused, why didn’t they just end the relationship and leave? It is such a simple question which clearly shows that the person asking the question doesn’t understand domestic violence at all.
Domestic violence doesn’t just happen in normal relationships. It isn’t like one of the people in the relationship just starts inflicting violence on the other. No, the abuse begins mentally. The victim is made to believe that they are worthless and they deserve the abuse. Once it is clear that the mental manipulation has worked, the abuser knows that they can hit the other person and they still will not leave. That is why people stay in abusive relationships. They have been manipulated into believing that they are the reason violence is inflicted on them.
Why People with Developmental Disabilities are at Risk
Most victims of domestic abuse are people without developmental disabilities. These people had the privilege of fully developed mental capacity and they still couldn’t avoid the trap of domestic violence. Now think how much easier it will be to manipulate someone with developmental disabilities.
The problem isn’t that they can be manipulated; the problem is that they may not have anything to turn to. Getting out of an abusive relationship means leaving all the comforts you get from the abusive relationship. The abusive relationship often involves differences in power, and these differences are used to keep the other person in the relationship. They may not have their own home or their own career which they can support themselves with. People with developmental disabilities have a much tougher time finding employment than other people.
That is why it is very important that we provide people with developmental disabilities the support they need. We need to create systems which allow them to leave when they need to. We all need to be on the lookout for any victims of abuse, and we need to speak up if we think someone is being abused. People with developmental disabilities deserve a life as full of happiness as the rest of us, and we all have to come together to make sure they actually have a shot at it.
So this March, make sure you raise awareness about the problem and come up with solutions. Work with shelters and organizations around you providing people the means to an escape. Shelters and organizations like Community Homeless Solutions will appreciate the help.