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Violence and Abuse

Violence against people with disabilities

In European societies, there is a growing concern about violence in general and, especially, when it is directed against vulnerable persons and members of minority groups. Although violence against people with disabilities is not uniform, many if not most persons with disabilities may be considered to be particularly vulnerable to acts of violence.

Since the protection of human dignity and physical integrity lie at the heart of the Council of Europe’s mandate, a Group of experts began its work in 1999 to study the problem of violence against people with disabilities in order to prepare concrete recommendations on how to combat and prevent the phenomenon. The more general issue of discrimination is excluded from the terms of reference of the Group.

The Group has defined violence against people with disabilities to cover physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological harm, financial abuse and neglect. Such violence may be perpetrated by anyone and any person with a disability can become its victim while it can also take place anywhere. Thresholds need to be developed for the evaluation of the seriousness of violence so that appropriate action can be taken against it.

The results of that Group have been published in the report “Safeguarding adults and children with disabilities against abuse”.

This report addresses abuse and mistreatment of disabled adults and children. It draws attention to the extent and nature of this abuse and aims to ensure that people with disabilities are protected against deliberate and/or avoidable harm - at least to the same extent as other citizens - and that, when they are especially vulnerable, additional measures are put in place to assure their safety.

The text contains:

  • a workable definition of violence, abuse, mistreatment and neglect;
  • case studies to show how these issues affect the lives of people with disabilities;
  • an overview and evaluation of recent research and sources of information;
  • a chapter on the legal framework and its contribution to protection;
  • information to help professionals assess risk to people with disabilities;
  • examples of good practice in policy and service development to strengthen protection for individuals both within specific social care agencies and in a broader social context;
  • recommendations for action.

Those recommendations include measures to prevent abuse from happening at all (primary prevention); measures to encourage prompt recognition, referral and investigation and prevent recurrence of abuse (secondary prevention); and the provision of treatment for people who have been abused (tertiary prevention).

The publication is available in English and French from: Council of Europe Publishing, F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, Fax: (+33) 3 88 41 39 10
E-mail:, Web site:

Safeguarding adults and children with disabilities against abuse, Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg, July 2002, 132 pages, ISBN 92-871-4919-4
Price: € 17 / US $ 26

On 2 February 2005, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution ResAP(2005) 1 on safeguarding adults and children with disabilities against abuse.