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I need to move urgently – I don’t feel safe where I am living now

There may be a number of reasons for this: domestic abuse (including abuse by partners or family members); or fear or experiences of crime or harassment from others.

These experiences can be particularly challenging for individuals with a visual impairment – the prospect of moving out of your home can be even more daunting and not all support services are fully accessible.

We consider harassment or anti-social behaviour in the next section

Domestic abuse

These include physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual forms of abuse.

It’s abuse if your partner or a family member:

  • threatens you
  • shoves or pushes you
  • makes you fear for your physical safety
  • puts you down, or attempts to undermine your self-esteem
  • controls you, for example by stopping you seeing your friends and family
  • is jealous and possessive, such as being suspicious of your friendships and conversations
  • frightens you

In addition to this, your abuser may:

  • remove equipment that you need to be independent (like your cane or your mobile phone);
  • use your sight loss to taunt or degrade you

There is some useful information on domestic abuse and disability on this page:

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/the-survivors-handbook-disabled-women/

You can get emergency 24-hour help by calling the following Freephone numbers:

The National Domestic Violence Helpline Run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge in England: 0808 2000 247

National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline Scotland: 0800 027 1234

The Live Fear Free Helpline in Wales: 0808 8010 800

These helplines can help you to find a place in a women’s refuge if that is what you want, but this is only one of your options. They can also give you emotional support and advice over the phone, or put you in touch with a women’s group or an outreach worker.

Refuge also have a list of useful contact numbers and links on their website to help in a variety of situations:

http://www.refuge.org.uk/links-and-useful-numbers/

Domestic abuse can occur between same sex partners and men can experience it too. Research has shown that both women and men with disabilities are at greater risk of domestic abuse than women and men who are non-disabled.

Men who are experiencing partner abuse can get advice and support from Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or at http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk/

Victim Support also supports people affected by any crime, this includes both men and women affected by domestic abuse: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/domestic-abuse

Victim Support also supports victims of other crimes: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help – this page offers a number of different ways to access support, including a free phone line, email support or being put in touch with your Victim Support service.

Honour-based abuse

Honour-based abuse is committed within extended families and motivated by a perceived need to restore standing within the community. It might involve forced marriage, violence or controlling behaviours.

Read about how Saliha Rashid finally moved away from her family who told her she could not be independent because she is blind and a woman. She has now finished a law degree at Leeds University and was awarded Yorkshire Women of Achievement 2015 Woman of the Year.

http://www.law.ac.uk/futurelawyers/saliha-rashid/

Saliha has been a volunteer for Karma Nirvana – a charity that provides education, training and support for those who have or are being forced to marry or are being forced to marry or are living with honour based and other forms or domestic abuse. Karma Nirvana has a helpline, operated by trained volunteers, that can help. You can call free on 0800 5999247 or visit their web site at: http://www.karmanirvana.org.uk/


Antisocial behaviour or harassment

Many visually impaired people have had experiences of harassment linked to their disability.

Row of red brick houses

Under the Equality Act 2010 harassment is any behaviour which:

  • violates your dignity, or
  • creates an intimidating or hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you.

Harassment is both a criminal offence and a civil action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Harassment can take different forms and affect people in different ways.

Peter White discussed some of these experiences in a Radio 4 discussion: he advises that seeking help at an early stage can assist to prevent future physical or verbal abuse:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/intouch_20080212.shtml#transcript

If you experience distress or alarm, you can lodge a complaint with the police.  The harassment that you experience might be directly related to your disability and can therefore be regarded as a hate incident or crime.

The Citizens Advice webpage provide useful information on examples of hate crimes, how to report them and where to get support:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/discrimination/hate-crime/

There are measures to protect you from harassment if you are a disabled home-owner, private or social tenant, and when you are applying to rent somewhere. For example; you are protected if:

  • your landlord or letting agent is harassing you, for example by using intimidation or threats to get you to leave your home or they make offensive remarks when you are applying to be put on the council housing waiting list
  • your landlord or letting agent allows other people to harass you in your home – this could include other tenants or anyone who works for your landlord, such as tradespeople or cleaners
  • you are being harassed by anyone else responsible for running the premises you live in, such as a tenants’ management committee
  • a private landlord enters without permission and it is not related to emergency repairs.

Private tenants can seek advice and support from the tenancy relation officers at your local council, and emergency housing through the council homelessness department. It is always useful to discuss your situation with an advisor before taking action.  Writing to your landlord, taking photographs or keeping records (such as emails or letters) can evidence the situation which can support any legal action you may wish to take.

If you rent your home from a local council, housing association or housing cooperative and are being harassed by other social-renting tenants, you should report the situation to your landlord. The council or social landlord must take action to help put a stop to the harassment.  For example, they may:

  • help you increase security around your home
  • put right any damage (for example, remove graffiti) immediately
  • confront the person who’s been harassing you (with your permission)
  • in extreme circumstances, evict the person who’s been harassing you.

If you are in Scotland, this webpage on the Shelter Scotland website may be a useful starting point:

http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/advice_topics/complaints_and_court_action/discrimination_and_harassment/harassment_if_youre_a_disabled_person

For Guide Dog Owners, a form of harassment or danger can be attacks by other dogs.  The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act was passed in March 2014.  In May 2014, The Scottish Parliament also introduced an equivalent measure called the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act.  This new legislation means that attacks by other dogs on an assistance dog will be treated as an aggravated offence with penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for irresponsible dog owners.

This legislation applies even if your guide dog is free running or retired.  It does not necessarily need to be in the act of providing assistance at the time of an attack.

 

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