Human abysses

According to a new study, almost one in two physically disabled women has been the victim of sexual assault at some time or another. According to the report, every third to fourth woman with disabilities has experienced sexual harassment in her childhood and youth.

This is the result of a recent study by the University of Bielefeld, which was presented at a symposium in Berlin on Tuesday. In the survey, the scholars partly used simplified language to explain 1.561 blind, deaf and physically impaired women between the ages of 16 and 65 interviewed. According to the report, women with disabilities and impairments are two to three times more likely to be victims of abuse than the female population average. At 31 percent, almost one-third of women living in care facilities have been sexually assaulted. In a previous study from 2004, this share was still 10 percent.

Federal Family Minister Kristina Schroder (CDU) described the extent of abuse as "frighteningly high" and announced rapid help for victims. Schroder sees the main task now as setting up reliable structures so that abuse victims can reach fast and good help on their own. Better yet, he says, is to actively approach possible victims. "In doing so, we have to make sure that we manage the balancing act between the necessary sensitivity to cries for help on the one hand and avoiding a climate of mistrust on the other," the minister told the "Osnabrucker Zeitung" (Tuesday). For the high level of violence and abuse, they said, is still matched many times over by honest care and loving concern.

Special protection and support needed
Hermann Kues (CDU), parliamentary state secretary to the federal family minister, said special protection and support was needed for the women involved. He announced that the German Family Ministry would support the "Violence Against Women" help line, which is being set up and is scheduled to launch in late 2012. The free help service is available 24 hours a day and offers competent initial counseling and referral.

The current survey shows that a total of one in three to one in four women with disabilities experienced sexual harassment in their childhood and youth. In adult life, this continues in many cases. Every third to fifth woman in the study reports forced sexual acts. In the previous study, this had been only 13 percent of respondents.

Furthermore, more than 80 percent of women said they suffered from discrimination. At least one situation of physical violence in adult life has been experienced by about two out of three women, according to the study, nearly twice as many as in 2004.

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