Supporting Survivors with Disabilities: When Your Abusive Partner is Also Your Caregiver

The Hotline

Supporting Survivors with Disabilities: When Your Abusive Partner is Also Your Caregiver

By Marilyn, a Hotline advocate

disabilities and caretakersHere at The Hotline, we know that abuse occurs in intimate partner relationships when one person tries to maintain power and control over their partner. When a person depends on their partner for any form of caretaking, there may be an additional risk for abuse because of a power imbalance. People with disabilities often experience higher rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse, and the impact of abuse may compound the disability.

When abusive partners are also caregivers, they may try to gain control in different ways:

  • They might try to gain power of attorney or legal conservator. Sometimes abusive partners will try to take this role in order to control different disability benefits, such as social security disability insurance or supplemental security income.
  • They might try to withhold medication or give out the wrong amount of medication.
  • They might attempt to isolate their partner from friends, family or healthcare providers. For instance, the abusive partner may interpret for their partner or take control of assistive devices/talking computer.
  • They might keep mobility or breathing devices out of reach.
  • They may prevent their partner from speaking with a doctor in private.
  • They might refuse to provide assistance with essential personal needs (bathing, toilet, eating, etc).
  • They might be emotionally abusive about their partner’s disability or health status by engaging in disability related shaming and humiliation.

If your partner is also your caregiver in any capacity, you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at all times. You deserve to have self-determination over your care and to live a life free of abuse. If you or someone you care about is being abused by their partner and caregiver, there are steps you can take to seek support.

  • Consider contacting Adult Protective Services. Adult Protective Services is a social services program that operates nationwide to serve seniors and adults with disabilities who are in need of assistance. Note for friends and family: a survivor always has the right to decline these services.
  • Try to locate another caregiver to receive additional support. Since abuse often thrives in isolation, social support can be a vital part of safety planning. Consider reaching out to neighbors, friends and family who might be supportive.
  • Some survivors are eligible for financial assistance that will make health insurance much more affordable. According to Futures Without Violence, as of April 29, 2015, survivors of domestic violence may apply for health insurance through at any time. They do not need to wait for Open Enrollment. This new policy allows survivors of domestic violence to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period instead of the short window of time during Open Enrollment.
  • Employers may provide resources and support to survivors with disabilities. Click here for more information about how employers can support and promote inclusive policies for domestic violence survivors in the workplace.
  • Contact nearby shelters to ensure they are able to support survivors with disabilities (i.e. do they admit people with disabilities, provide reasonable accommodations, eliminate structural barriers to access, etc.)

At The Hotline, we are committed to serving all survivors of abuse. You always have the right to feel safe and supported in your relationship. You know your situation best, and you have the right to make decisions that are safest for you. If you would like to speak with an advocate about developing a personalized safety plan or finding resources that meet your needs, please call us at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.  

Comment section

18 replies
  1. Although the term “caretaker” technically applies to caring for humans, the preferred term for those of us who have one is ‘caregiver’. A caretaker takes care of property or things.

  2. Hi Aradhana,

    Yes, verbal abuse is a form of domestic violence and can include insults or name-calling, verbal threats, shaming or humiliating you, and continually criticizing you. It can be just as harmful as other types of abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse of any kind, we are here to help 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat live via this website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

  3. Hi Bruce,

    Thank you for sharing your perspective with us. Although we have seen the terms “caretaker” and “caregiver” used interchangeably, in this context we can see your viewpoint that “caregiver” may be the more appropriate term. We have updated the text accordingly.

  4. Me and my boyfriend have been together for four years on and off and every time we have broke up its because he has hit me. I have been called every name in the book and his favorite is cu** we have two children together and I feel bad when I leave because I don’t like being hurt but I just want him to love me. Here lately he has been getting mad if I don’t do what he says and starts name calling and says I ruin his life but when I leave he spreads these crazy lies and I look like this horrible person and I’m always worried about what people think. But anymore I don’t even know who I am I’m lost I automatically think people hate me so I have no friends and I just don’t know what to do anymore but these last couple of fight he has said he hopes I die or wishes I would get hit by a car because he would be happier and I should stand in the street(which he said tonight). I just don’t understand why I can’t just stay mad at him and leave or why in my head I know its wrong but then start feeling like i deserved it.some times I think everyone would be happier if I did just die but I know my kiddos need me and i couldnt imagine ever being away from them or ever doing anything to harm myself. he has hit me and when I say I will call the cops he says what are you talking about you hit me and I know i didn’t but sometimes I start believing him. I don’t know I just feel like a robot anymore. I need help I feel like I’m drowning. I wish he would get help and we could live like a normal family.

  5. Hi breann,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. We are so sorry to hear that your partner chooses to be so physically, verbally and emotionally abusive toward you. You do not deserve to be treated this way, no matter what, and it’s not your fault. We’d like to help in any way we can. If you feel safe doing so, please call 1-800-799-7233 any time or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

  6. I know all to well about domestic vilance . the problem is that no one in the relstionship should name and shame the other and it also takes two to start the fight but it only takes one to stop it . just walk away cool off and come back when your carm .one other thing is never put the other partner down infrunt of children .

  7. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    I would like to remain anonymous for now because I am shameful a what I allow to happen with no with a turn and no one believing me and needs me to hear seeking help., This is my story; I’m disable and I’m not in a nursing home but people like myself get miss treated most of the time in my own home I had a adide that use to nentlly play mind games with me and she stole from me and I’m affected by it I had four stroke Before this happen and I’m partially blind and this is why I had an adide, she took advantage of me and my family didn’t believe me and until this day they know something may have happen but they don’t take it serious and the disable front have nobody to really help them regarding issues like mines and so it all over as long as your not able your a target, so where do one get help? The things I saw and the things she did to me I finally got her out, but still scared by it and sadden and now I’m a fried that aided may be out there harming or taking advantage of another and these agency don’t have proper screening For the people they call adides, it’s very sad so the disable suffer alone! , and my in the right place ?

  8. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines.]

    My husband is supposed to be my caregiver and has never ‘hit’ me there are just a bunch of ‘accidents’. He allows “just enough” room to appear as if he a a good husband. Until we put it under a microscope and look at what happens behind closed doors. I am most certainly not perfect and make plenty of mistakes but he is not the one who lives in a world that could fall out beneath his feet any second. I have always put the family needs ahead of my own desires and often needs.

  9. Hello Alesia,

    Thank you for your comment. You have been through so much, and you absolutely deserve support. We’d like to help in any way we can. If you feel safe doing so, please reach out to us any time at 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-787-3224 TTY) or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time. We hope to hear from you soon.

  10. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines.]

    Estoy en una situación muy difícil he pasado por Muchas cosas mi pareja es una persona muy manipuladora y no solamente conmigo…

  11. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines.]

    What happens when it’s the caregiver? And that caregiver is the husband? That’s me.

  12. Hi Anonymous,

    Thank you for sharing your story here. We are so sorry to hear about your experiences. You absolutely do not deserve to be treated this way by anyone. We encourage you to contact us directly by calling 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-787-3224 TTY) or chatting here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time. We can offer support and may be able to locate some resources for you. Another option would be to contact the National Adult Protective Services Association. You can find help in your area by visiting this webpage:

  13. Hi Hello, I’m Worthless –

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. It is absolutely heartbreaking what you’ve been through. We did remove much of your comment over concerns about safety and confidentiality, but please know that you are not alone, and you are not worthless. The way your husband is treating you is absolutely unacceptable, and you do not deserve it. At all. We are here for you in any capacity you need, and we encourage you to contact us to speak confidentially with one of our advocates. Whenever you feel safe enough to do so, please call 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-787-3224 TTY) or chat here on our website by clicking the “Chat Now” button (available between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time). We hope to hear from you soon.

  14. Hi Victor,

    Wow, you have been through so much with your family. We removed much of your comment due to safety and privacy concerns, but what you shared is heartbreaking. You do not deserve to be treated this way by your wife. This sounds like such a complicated situation, and we would be happy to talk through it and help you sort out the next steps you want to take. Please get in touch with us by calling 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chatting here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time. We hope to hear from you soon.

  15. Hola Nancy,
    Esta es una situación muy difícil y complicada. Lo sentimos mucho que usted está siendo tratada de esta manera por su pareja y que su familia no le está dando apoyo. Entendemos que puede ser muy difícil salir de una situación como esta, incluso si así lo desea. Le invitamos a que se ponga en contacto con nosotros al 1-800-799-7233 para que podamos ofrecerle apoyo y posiblemente, las opciones para superar su situación. Esperamos saber de usted pronto.

  16. This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines.
    A friend of mine was horrifically abused physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually, mentally, spiritually, financially, and psychologically for almost 18 years. This monster turned everyone against her, including two of her own children. He was able to leave her in utter poverty because he’s Mr. Popular in his county. Anyway, she had to put all her things in storage because of her condition, she cannot work and had to stay with relatives – all of whom he ultimately turned against her. She just needs help paying her storage fees. I’m strapped to the gills or I would pay these for her. Her only sin is she’s a sweet, kind woman who was totally devoted to a creep. She can hardly move and suffers from severe mental illnesses as well, now, including hallucinations. Are there any financial help options for her?

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