“Helping Somebody Else Has Helped Me Too”: Resilience in Rural Women With Disabilities With Experiences of Interpersonal Violence

Kimberly Aguillard, Gretchen Gemeinhardt, Sheryl McCurdy, Vanessa Schick, Rosemary Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The concept of resilience, the ability to “bounce back,” from adversity, can inform interpersonal violence interventions and victim assistance services. Unfortunately, though women with disabilities (WWD) experience high rates of all forms of violence and multiple layers of adversity, existing resilience research overlooks this populations’ experiences, perspectives, and resilience strategies. The impairment, socially misperceived as a personal tragedy, precludes individuals with disabilities from being considered resilient; rather, they are designated almost universally as “at risk” or “vulnerable.” This study aims to remedy this gap in understanding and scholarship. This qualitative study engaged 33 rural women with diverse disabilities who experienced violence to learn about how they cultivated resilience to support recovery and growth after experiencing abuse. Women described key personal qualities and supportive networks and services, such as internal drive, connectedness, dedication, healthy and helpful outlets, and an evolution of thoughts and behaviors. Counter to prevailing perceptions of WWD as dependent and helpless, women described how living with a disability honed strengths fundamental to their resilience. Women also described an “altruism born of suffering” wherein their experiences of violence contributed to a desire to give back and help others in difficult circumstances. Women’s insights help to build a more comprehensive understanding of effective strategies and supports to bolster WWD’s resilience. These findings inform interventions and promote approaches to build on women’s strengths and resourcefulness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP15594-NP15619
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number17-18
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • assessment
  • cultural context
  • disclosure
  • domestic violence
  • mental health
  • perceptions


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