Domestic Violence & Disabilities

Barrier Free Living is an expert working with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities.

The BFL team works with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities at our fully accessible Freedom House domestic violence shelter, our award winning Secret Garden domestic violence counseling program, and our latest BFL Apartments offering permanent homes with support services to survivors with disabilities and their families.

“Domestic violence is the number one issue of women with disabilities”

Paul Feuerstein, President/CEO

Our Latest DV Initiatives

The BFL team shares nearly 40 years of experience, knowledge and growth in the domestic violence and disabilities field.

BFL Apartments’ Tenant Miss Flo Teams With Social Worker For Success

Miss Flo, one of the original tenants of Barrier Free Living Apartments in the Bronx, was an active part of the community from the start. She  was a founding member of the garden club, and was a regular attendee of Occupational Therapy groups and workshops.In 2017, however, two strokes that came only ten days apart, landed her in the hospital.

“I was very close to death,” says Flo.

Flo recovered and returned home to BFL Apartments, hoping to pick up where she left off. But there was one big thing missing: a motorized scooter.

“I knew the scooter would give me freedom and mobility. I couldn’t move independently in the manual chair,” says Flo. “I am so thankful for my (Barrier Free Living apartments) social worker Claudine (in photo above). It was her determination and her stern voice (advocating) that got the insurance to finally approve the scooter.”

Flo is back in the garden this May, and happy to be doing things like grocery shopping again.

“There are so many things I am happy to do for myself.”

Read about Miss Flo and the garden club here. 



BFL Honors LGBTQ+ Pride Month 

June is Pride Month nationwide, which is an opportunity for the world and for members of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate their identity and their relationships.
Barrier Free Living is proud to provide services to members of the LGBTQ+ community. (view our BFLMinute honoring pride here.)
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not barriers to accessing any of our programs, including our emergency domestic violence shelter Freedom HouseSecret Garden or BFL Apartments. (View a virtual tour of Freedom House here.)
This connection to the LGBTQ community also sheds light on some startling facts that we address year round at our programs.
LGBTQ+ people of color and people with disabilities are disproportionately more likely to report domestic violence. A recent survey of anti-violence programs serving the LGBTQ+ community found that 65% of their clients are people of color, including 21% who are Black or African American, 27% Latino and 4% Asian. Nearly half of their clients, 44%, report having a disability (source: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs).
Rates of domestic violence in the LGBTQ+ community are equal to or greater than that of heterosexuals and cisgender individuals (source: CDC). Forty-four percent of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women report experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. Among men, the numbers are 26% for gay men and 37% for bisexual men, compared to 29% of heterosexual men.
The numbers are even worse for transgender individuals, 54% of whom report having experienced intimate partner violence, compared to one third of the general population (source: National Center for Transgender Equality, CDC).
As with heterosexual and cisgender relationships, domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships is the use of coercive tactics by an abuser to maintain power and control.
Abusers may threaten to out victims who have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity, potentially jeopardizing their relationships or employment. Abusers may isolate victims from the larger LGBTQ+ community, making it difficult to access support.
Trans survivors may be referred to as their dead (pre-transition) name or have their gender identity shamed or ridiculed, such as being called an “it” or told they are not a “real” man or woman.
Discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals can also contribute to domestic violence. For example, a transgender individual who lost their job because of anti-trans bias may stay with an abuser who provides financial support, especially if they need to pay for hormone treatment or gender affirming surgery. A gay person who has been thrown out of their home because of their sexual orientation may move in with an abuser to avoid homelessness.
Anti-LGBTQ+ bias also affects the willingness of LGBTQ+ survivors to report domestic violence. They may fear discrimination from police officers, district attorneys, medical providers, counselors or shelters.
Survivors may be reluctant to disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation to service providers who do not explicitly state that they provide services to the LGBTQ community. Transgender survivors who do not have documentation of their gender identity or chosen name may be forced to use their legal name or gender assigned at birth.
To learn more about our services reach out to our programs here.

Calendar of Events, Outreach & More 

Barrier Free Living’s Secret Garden community based domestic violence program celebrated its new space, with a grand opening event for staff and supporters.

“This is a great new home where we can focus on our comprehensive services. We welcome all agency staff to attend our regular workshops and trainings, or to just stop by through the year and find some quiet time.” says Jules, Secret Garden Program Director.

The Secret Garden will unveil a new historical timeline poster, documenting the program’s decades of working with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities.

Meditative Treatments For Freedom House Residents


Research indicates a strong connection between mental and physical health for trauma survivors.
This May, residents of Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House domestic violence shelter received free massages at the Reciprocity Foundation (view a virtual tour of Freedom House here).
The organization provides free and low-cost wellness services to vulnerable New Yorkers. Reciprocity recently opened a new Wellspace in downtown Manhattan.
Located in a nondescript office building, Reciprocity Wellspace features peaceful white walls and a stunning view of lower Manhattan. There is a meditation room, small library of spiritual and inspirational books, massage room, and open kitchen space.
Freedom House residents were offered water and lemonade as well as fresh fruit during their visit. The four residents who participated each received 30-minute chair massages.
The director of Reciprocity, Taz Tagore, explained that as shelter residents they were entitled to free weekly treatments, which could include meditation, yoga, massages or Reiki.
Freedom House has long taken a holistic approach to the healing journey for its residents. In addition to group and individual Domestic Violence counseling, residents can participate in biweekly yoga classes, movement workshops and a new art therapy group (read about the art therapy here)  In the past, transcendental meditation was offered on site.
Freedom House sources a variety of resources and studies in developing groups and healing work.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences survey demonstrates much higher rates of health problems for people who survived childhood trauma.
Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score explains in detail the nonverbal ways in which trauma is communicated, such as chronic pain or creative expression.
The Freedom House residents who chose to attend the Reciprocity spa day all experience chronic pain that negatively impacts their daily life and can make it difficult to engage in activities of daily living.
Participants reported that the massages reduced their pain and tension, increased their flexibility, and gave them more energy.
For survivors of domestic violence with disabilities, many of whom became disabled or saw their symptoms worsen as a result of the abuse, receiving massages and other wellness treatments is an especially useful tool to help with their physical and emotional healing.

Freedom House DV Shelter Virtual Tour 

Take a virtual tour of Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House domestic violence shelter for survivors with disabilities. Get an up close and inside look at what makes our shelter absolutely unique and vital.

Link to film here .

Breaking Barriers In DV Newsletter

Each month BFL team members share their expertise and experience around our work with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities. Email us to sign up: [email protected]

Domestic Violence Resources

Search our extensive resource of information on the issues surrounding of domestic violence and disabilities.

Examples: Shelter, Children, Advocacy, Fleeing

Stories of Survival

The great benefit of our work at Barrier Free Living is the opportunity to see the results of our programs and hear the stories of inspiration, persistance and survival that our programs have helped to create.

“My family feels safe. We are learning to be strong and to love ourselves. I am so glad we are here” More about  Olga’s Journey of Hope

“I wanted to volunteer here because I wanted to be part of the great mission that Freedom House has for women and children.” More about  Bethelihem’s Journey of Hope


The BFL team shares its expertise at conferences and attends events locally and nationwide throughout the year.

Check back for future outreach events.