"I thought I was less worthy": Low sexual and body esteem and increased vulnerability to intimate partner abuse in women with physical disabilities

Dena Hassouneh-Phillips, Elizabeth McNeff

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    55 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Several studies have documented disproportionately low sexual and body esteem in women with high degrees of physical impairment. Moreover, other studies have begun to examine the problem of intimate partner and other forms of abuse in women with physical disabilities. In this article we examine the link between low sexual and body esteem and intimate partner abuse in women with physical disabilities based on findings obtained from an in-depth qualitative study. Findings indicate that women with high degrees of physical impairment are more likely to perceive themselves as sexually inadequate and unattractive than women with mild impairment. These negative perceptions, when combined with a strong desire to be partnered, increased women's vulnerability to getting into and staying in abusive relationships over time. Major themes presented in the article include: societal devaluation, low sexual and body esteem, preference for non-disabled men, desire to be partnered, and relationship decision-making. We depict the relationships between each of these themes in a simple model to further aid the reader's understanding.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)227-240
    Number of pages14
    JournalSexuality and Disability
    Volume23
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

    Keywords

    • Body esteem
    • Intimate partner violence
    • Sexual esteem
    • Women with physical disabilities

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
    • Rehabilitation

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