Anyone can be affected by harassment, sexual violence, interpersonal violence, or stalking, regardless of their gender, race, ability status, or any other identity.  However, there are some people with marginalized identities who face higher rates of violence or additional barriers to seeking help. Additional information is included below about some of these communities: people with disabilities, students who study abroad, international students, and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ Communities).

People with Disabilities

What is the prevalence of violence?

Disability is a very broad term that can include physical, learning, intellectual or psychiatric disabilities. It is estimated that 10% of Americans are living with some form of disability.

Sexual Violence

Individuals with disabilities face sexual violence at an astonishing rate.

  • More than 50% of individuals with physical disabilities, and 90% of individuals with intellectual disabilities have experienced sexual assault.
  • People with disabilities are also more likely to experience repeat victimization. One study showed than 80% of people with disabilities were assaulted more than once, and 50% of those were assaulted more than ten times. (Sobsey and Doe, 1991).
  • They are most often assaulted by someone they know (just like individuals without disabilities), such as a partner, caregiver, or friend.

Interpersonal (relationship) violence

People with disabilities also experience interpersonal violence. There are some unique ways that abusers can exert power and control over someone who has a disability:

  • becoming a relied-upon, or primary, caregiver before assaulting the person;
  • moving, breaking, or stealing adaptive equipment so they can’t call for or get to help;
  • threatening, injuring or scaring away their service animal;
  • refusing access to medication, giving someone drugs without their knowledge, forcing them to take drugs or medication, or giving them more than was prescribed; and
  • exploiting their lack of access to accommodations if reporting to police or medical personnel, such as interpreters, ramps, or an advocate.

What are barriers to getting help?

People with disabilities are affected by sexual and interpersonal violence in many of the same ways as individuals without disabilities. They also face some unique circumstances and barriers to getting help that individuals without disabilities may not. For example:

  • Stereotypes about people with disabilities cause some people to see their partners as heroes or martyrs, making it hard to believe they’re also hurting them.
  • People with disabilities often have less access to information about sex and sexuality than their peers without disabilities. This makes them more vulnerable to assault because they may not understand what is happening or that they have a right to say no.
  • If someone’s caregiver is the person harming them, they may struggle to choose between reporting the abuse and being able to complete their daily activities.

Resources for People with Disabilities

What resources are available at UNC-Chapel Hill?

The Office of Accessibility Resources & Service, a department within the Division of Student Affairs, works with units throughout the University to assure that the programs and facilities of the University are accessible to every student in the University community. Additionally, Accessibility Resources & Service provides reasonable accommodations, so students with disabilities who are otherwise qualified may, as independently as possible, meet the demands of University life. Employees should contact the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office with disability accommodation requests.

What are other available resources?

The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides accessibility guides and accessibility equipment to domestic violence and sexual assault service providers in the state of North Carolina.

For more information about the dynamics of sexual assault against people with disabilities and Deaf individuals, check out the Accessing Safety Initiative or this toolkit from the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

For more information about violence against people with intellectual disabilities, visit the Illinois Imagines Project.

International Students

What do we know?

  • The number of international students in the U.S. has quadrupled to nearly 800,000 since the early 1970s. Similarly, at UNC-Chapel Hill, there has been a significant increase in international student enrollment since 2007.
  • In spite of this growth, very little is known about violent acts such as sexual assault and domestic violence among international students living in the U.S.
  • Upon arrival in the U.S., international students and their dependents may not be familiar with the U.S. legal system, laws protecting people from sexual and domestic violence, and the availability of services to assist them.
  • Factors such as culture, social isolation, language, legal status, and access to services increase vulnerability to abuse and decrease the likelihood of seeking help for immigrant women, international students, and their dependents.
  • Across countries of origin, U.S. immigrant women experience higher rates of domestic violence and femicide compared to U.S.-born women.
  • Multi-country studies found that, on average, 29% of university students physically assaulted a dating partner in the previous 12 months and 40% of women agree that it is acceptable for a husband to hit his wife under certain circumstances.
  • Graduate students experience additional adjustment difficulties due to limited contact with their host society, few social networks, high academic expectations, and limited financial resources. These factors could lead to increased levels of stress for those with tendencies to commit violent acts, and increase vulnerability for those who are in danger of being victimized.

For more information, recommendations for UNC-Chapel Hill, and list of references, contact Student Wellness staff.

For more information about U.S. laws and resources regarding domestic violence and sexual assault visit the Office of Violence Against Women at the United States Department of Justice.

Resources for International Students

What resources are available at UNC-Chapel Hill?

International students at UNC-Chapel Hill experiencing domestic or sexual violence have access to all support options at UNC-Chapel Hill, including confidential counselors at UNC-CH Counseling and Psychological Services. International students may also want to speak to staff at the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

What are other available resources?

If a student’s dependent is experiencing domestic violence, visit the Compass Center’s website or call the 24/7 hotline at 919-929-7122. All services are free and confidential and available in English and Spanish.

If a student’s dependent is experiencing sexual violence, visit the Orange County Rape Crisis Center’s website or call the 24/7 hotline at 1-866-WE LISTEN (935-4783). The services are free of charge for everyone. Individuals who don’t speak English can still call the Help Line. OCRCC has Spanish-speaking Companions on call. For other languages, a translator is available.

Students Studying Abroad

What does the literature say?

  • A study published in 2012 indicated that the semester risk for having nonconsensual sexual contact while studying abroad was more than four times higher than while studying on campus among female undergraduate students.
  • The number of U.S. students studying abroad has grown by 200% in the last decade to over 270,000 students per year. At UNC-Chapel Hill, roughly 1,300 students study abroad in 70 countries each year.
  • Among the risk factors associated with incidents of sexual assault, alcohol is frequently identified for students studying abroad.

What is UNC-Chapel Hill doing?

  • At UNC-Chapel Hill, content on sexual assault and interpersonal violence were incorporated into the pre-departure trainings for students presented by the Study Abroad Office advisors in Spring 2013. Read the most updated handout here: Sexual Assault InfoSheet 2014
  • UNC-Chapel Hill has sexual assault and interpersonal violence bystander intervention (One Act) and response (HAVEN) skills trainings for students, the content of which may apply to situations that occur at home and abroad.

For more information, recommendations for UNC-Chapel Hill, and list of references, contact Student Wellness staff.

Resources for Students Abroad

Students who are studying abroad and experience interpersonal violence have access to support and reporting options at UNC-Chapel Hill. Students should be aware that relevant policies such as the University Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct may apply while they are studying abroad. Many support and reporting options are available, including:

LGBTQ Communities

Unique aspects of same sex domestic violence
Domestic violence in same sex and heterosexual relationships share many similarities, including the types of abuse and the impact on the abused partner. However, there are a number of aspects that are unique to same sex domestic violence. These include:

  • ‘Outing’ as a method of control. If the abused partner isn’t out to their family, friends, and colleagues or within their cultural community the abusive partner may use ‘outing’ or the threat of ‘outing’ as a method of control.
  • Abuse may become associated with sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression. For many people, especially those new to LGBTQ relationships, their sexual or gender identity may become associated with the abuse so that they blame the abuse on being LGBTQ. So they may feel that “I’m experiencing this abuse because I’m LGBTQ. If I wasn’t LGBTQ I wouldn’t be experiencing this.”

Understanding of interpersonal violence in communities
Most information on interpersonal violence relates to heterosexual relationships. This lack of understanding means that some people may not:

  • Believe it happens in same sex relationships or relationships where one or more partners is transgender;
  • Recognize abuse as interpersonal violence if it does happen to them; and/or
  • Know how to respond if they see interpersonal violence in their friend’s or family members’ relationships.

Confidentiality and isolation within the LGBTQ communities
The relatively small size of LGBTQ communities, especially in smaller cities and rural areas, can make it difficult for the abused partner to seek help. They may feel embarrassed about the abuse or their partner may have tried to turn others in the community against them. An abusive partner may isolate the other from contact with the gay and lesbian community by preventing them from reading the community press, attending gay and lesbian venues or events, and preventing them from seeing friends from within the community. This is especially true for people in their first relationship or who may not have had much contact with LGBTQ communities before the relationship began.

Resources for LGBTQ Communities

What are available resources?

In addition to the many support and reporting options available on campus, including the UNC-Chapel Hill LGTBQ Center, there are several other resources available for those seeking support. Survivor Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of intersex and trans survivors of domestic and sexual violence through caring action, education and expanding access to resources and to opportunities for action. Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project provides crisis intervention, support and resources for victims and survivors of domestic abuse.