Quebec advocates say women with disabilities more vulnerable to domestic violence

Click to play video: 'Disability advocates call for more accessibility for women seeking shelter from violence' Disability advocates call for more accessibility for women seeking shelter from violence
WATCH: This year, Quebec has seen a large number of women targeted in homicides, also known as femicides. It has highlighted a situation many are calling a crisis. Disability advocates say when it comes to domestic abuse there is one group of women who have long been overlooked. Global’s Phil Carpenter reports – Dec 14, 2021

Quebec has seen a high number of women as victims of homicide in 2021, highlighting a disturbing situation that many are calling a crisis.

Advocates, owever, say when it comes to domestic abuse, women living with disabilities have long been overlooked.

“I’m really worried about women with disabilities,” said Sandra Gualtieri, a woman with cerebral palsy who’s been in a successful relationship for decades.

Nevertheless, she is concerned about women living with disabilities who aren’t as lucky as she is because of the scarce resources to help them.

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The first obstacle, she pointed out, are police officers who are called in a crisis.

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“They don’t really know how to deal with [women with disabilities],” she noted, adding that there should be more training for law enforcement.

Linda Gauthier, president of Regroupement Activisites Pour L’inclusion Quebec (RAPLIQ), a community group which advocates for people with disabilities, agrees, pointing out there is no guide for how police officers should help.

She raised the problem of how would someone in a wheelchair, like her, would be transported to a shelter. Where would the wheelchair go?

“My wheelchair [is] my legs,” she stressed.  “So if they leave it with [an abusive] husband, I won’t have nothing to help me where I’m going.”
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“Many shelters are neither accessible nor adapted to their needs,” she noted. “We are at least twice more likely to be abused than women without disabilities.”

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According to Martine Lévesque, assistant professor at the Université de Montréal’s faculty of medicine’s school of rehabilitation, it’s hard to know the exact number of such women who are being abused in Quebec, because there’s no system to track it.

“It’s a tough situation,” she said.  “We know that the violence is there and that the women are staying in these situations due to a lack of system response.”

Gauthier is in talks with some police services about how they can improve.

In an email statement to Global News, Montreal police wrote, “the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) reiterates its commitment to fight against domestic violence, especially for people with disabilities.

“Moreover, we are working to better equip our police force in this matter and a process is underway. We are already in contact with the Regroupement des activistes pour l’Inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ) and presentations are planned.”

Both Gauthier and Gualtieri hope to see change before long.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, the SPVM has a list of resources available and advice on what to do.

For victims and children

S.O.S. violence conjugale
Listening, guidance and referral, in French and English
Multilingual site
1-800 363-9010, 24/7
Text: 438-601-1211, from 2:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Shield of Athena
Support for women from ethnocultural communities who are victims of family violence and their children, and translation and interpretation services
514-274-8117 or 1-877 274-8117 (Montréal)

Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes

Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale

For men

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