Identifying Abuse

What constitutes abuse?

The first step is to be able to identify the abuse in our lives. Abuse can be:

Physical Force

If you are hit, kicked, slapped, punched or beaten, you are being physically abused. If a person who is supposed to be providing care for you uses physical force while feeding, dressing or bathing you, you are being abused by your caregiver.

Sexual Violence

If you are raped or forced to engage in any sexual behaviour that you do not want, even by your partner, boyfriend or husband, you are being sexually abused. You may experience unwanted sexual actions by a caregiver. For example, if your caregiver touches you sexually during your bathing or toilet routine, that is abuse.

Caregiver Neglect

If you are denied assistance to use the washroom, get out of bed, have food or be bathed, it is unacceptable, and it is abuse. If someone threatens to take away your assistive device such as a hearing aid, wheelchair or walker, that is abuse.

Verbal Abuse and Threats

If anyone—an attendant, support worker, “friend” or family member—continually tells you that you are incapable of doing anything meaningful with your life because of your disability; that is abusive. If you experience disrespectful treatment from shelter workers, social workers, medical staff or any other person that is being paid to help you, it is abuse.

It is abuse when someone threatens to:

  • Physically or sexually harm you
  • Leave you without being fed or cared for
  • Leave you in wet or soiled clothing or bed sheets for a long period of time
  • Leave you on the toilet or in the bath too long
  • Leave and take the children
  • Put you in an institution

Threats are abuse.

Financial Abuse

If someone tries to control or use your money against your wishes or without your consent, that is abuse.

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Classism as Abuse

Discrimination is even worse when, as women with disabilities and Deaf women, we also belong to another group that faces barriers. When someone says bad things to you or treats you badly because you are young, old, of a minority racial group, or you identify as lesbian, bisexual, trans or queer or because you are poor – that is abuse.


Ableism is a form of abuse and prejudice that happens when people with disabilities are treated as though they are not as good as people without disabilities.

Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying is when through e-mail, internet chat rooms and electronic gadgets like cellphone cameras, cyber bullies spread hurtful images and/or messages.