Serious lack of research on preventing violence against people with disabilities
Have you ever tried to find good research or best practices for preventing violence against people with disabilities? Did you end up frustrated and empty-handed? If so, you’re not alone. In a new research article, Christopher Mikton, Holly Maguire, and Tom Shakespeare did a systematic review of the research on violence prevention for people with disabilities, and they specifically wanted to look at studies that evaluated how effective primary and secondary prevention efforts were for this population.
They found some practice guides, like Protecting Children with Disabilities from Sexual Assault: A Parent’s Guide and Childhood, Disability & Violence, which both make recommendations for violence prevention based on practitioners’ experiences, not on research. While it is great that these guidelines are based in real practice, it would be nice if there were also a body of research-based evidence to support them.
Even though the researchers looked for studies that evaluated the effectiveness of any kind of prevention efforts for people with any kind of disability in any country, they only found 10 studies that fit their criteria. Based on pre-set standards, the article deemed that all 10 of these studies were weak in their research methods, and none of them found that the prevention strategies they studied were effective.
Though this study clearly shows that the research world is way behind on preventing violence against people with disabilities, hopefully it will serve as a wake-up call to researchers. If you’ve had some good violence prevention experiences with people with disabilities, it could be worth connecting with Mikton, Maguire, and Shakespeare. I’m sure this article will generate interest in new research on this topic, and you might be able to help inform some of that research.
Full Citation: Mikton, C., Maguire, H., & Shakespeare, T. (2014). A systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions to prevent and respond to violence against persons with disabilities. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Epublished: May 28, 2014. Doi: 10.1177/0886260514534530
Full Abstract: Persons with disabilities make up some 15% of the world’s population and are at higher risk of violence. Yet there is currently no systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions to prevent violence against them. Thus the aim of this review was to systematically search for, appraise the quality of, and synthesize the evidence for the effectiveness of interventions to prevent and mitigate the consequences of all the main forms of interpersonal violence against people with all types of disabilities. The method used consisted of searches of eleven electronic databases, hand searches of three journals, scanning of reference lists of review articles, contact with experts, appraisal of risk of bias using the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies, and narrative synthesis of results. This resulted in 736 titles being identified, 10 of which met the inclusion criteria and 6 and 2 addressed people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities, respectively. Only one was from a low- and middle-income country. All studies received a weak rating on the quality assessment tool and none could be considered effective after taking risk of bias into account. In sum, the current evidence base offers little guidance to policy makers, program commissioners, and persons with disabilities for selecting interventions. More and higher quality research is required, particularly from low- and middle-income countries and on other forms of disability such as physical impairments, sensory impairments, and mental health conditions.