Abuse and Neglect

younger person's hand on top of older person's hand

Every person has the right to be free from abuse and neglect. People with disabilities tend to suffer these at much higher rates than the general population, so we are committed to ensuring that people with disabilities can be safe wherever they are; whether in their homes, in their communities, or in nursing homes or institutions. If you believe your rights have been infringed, or if you believe you have been the victim of a crime, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Your Rights

  • You have the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
  • You have the right to decide who can touch your body in any way.
  • You have the right to be safe wherever you live and play.
  • You have the right to say “No” if someone is doing something you don’t want – even if the person doing it is someone you like.

If You Are Abused:

  • You have the right to tell someone that you were abused.
  • You have the right to talk to police about your abuse.
  • You have the right to get help and accommodations to tell your story.
  • You have the right to ask for someone trusted (like a therapist or counselor) to talk with you about your abuse.

What is Considered Abuse or Neglect?

There are many different types of abuse and neglect, but all types of abuse involve one person or group of people inflicting harm onto another person by either performing an action, or failing to perform an action. The following are just a few examples of abuse that should be reported:

  • Physical Harm (example: pushing, hitting, or shoving).
  • Restraint (example: being tied down).
  • Forced Medical Treatment (example: having to take medication you do not want and do not legally have to take).
  • Verbal Abuse (example: name calling or yelling).
  • Neglect (example: when someone is supposed to take care of certain things for you, but they do not).
  • Sexual Abuse (example: sexual assault, inappropriate touching, or sexual harassment).
  • Financial Exploitation (example: someone stealing money, not spending your money on you and your needs).

How do I Report Abuse?

Disability Rights Wisconsin is not a first responder agency for suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation.

If someone is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call the police or 9-1-1 immediately.

To report abuse of an elder (60 or older) contact your county Elder Abuse helpline.

To report abuse of an adult (18-59) contact Adult Protective Services.

The Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) is responsible for assuring the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Wisconsin. If you believe that a caregiver, agency, or DQA regulated facility has violated the law, you can file a complaint with DQA.

To report child abuse or neglect contact Child Protective Services.

For additional information on Domestic Abuse, visit the End Abuse Wisconsin website.

For suspected sex/human trafficking: Call 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711)|Text 233733

When suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation involves a person with a disability or mental illness, particularly when that abuse occurs in a program or facility funded by the state, we encourage you to also report this suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation to Disability Rights Wisconsin’s Protection and Advocacy system.

Disability Rights Wisconsin also provides advocacy assistance to victims of crime with disabilities regardless of whether that crime has been reported.


Disability Rights Wisconsin may be able to help if you or someone you know has been abused or neglected in an institution or community setting. We advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to live their lives free of abuse or neglect. Our attorneys provide legal counsel for people who may have experienced abuse or neglect, our advocates fight tirelessly to prevent abuse and neglect in homes and institutions, and we fight for laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities to be free of abuse and neglect.

Self-Advocacy Resources

Our self-advocacy resources have helpful guidance and further information on issues related to this topic. Learn more below:


Other places that may be able to help you:

  • Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy

    Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services empowers Deaf and Deaf Blind survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment to transform their lives, while striving to change the beliefs and behaviors that foster and perpetuate violence.

  • Child Protective Services

    The goal of Child Protective Services (CPS system) is to support parents/caregivers in making necessary changes so children are safe and protected in their homes.

  • Client Rights Office

    The Client Rights Office serves individuals receiving services for developmental disability, mental health, and substance use in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings, including adult family homes, clinics, community-based residential facilities, facilities operated by WI DHS, and group homes.

  • Consumer’s Guide to Legal Help

    findlegalhelp.org is provided as a public service by the American Bar Association’s Division for Legal Services. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice or legal representation.

  • Deaf Unity

    Deaf Unity provides services to and advocates for Deaf victims.

  • End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin

    For advocates, survivors and allies, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin is the only statewide coalition led by social policy advocates, attorneys and experts working to support, connect, equip, empower and lead organizations for social change to end domestic abuse because everyone deserves dignity and safety.

  • Free Legal Answers

    American Bar Association

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline

    Highly-trained advocates are available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

  • Safety Planning for Domestic violence victims with disabilities

  • Safety planning for persons with disabilities (advocate guide)

  • State Bar of Wisconsin

    The State Bar of Wisconsin brings together the expertise of Wisconsin lawyers to answer commonly asked legal questions and provide resources about Wisconsin law in easy-to-understand language.  The Bar also provides a Lawyer Referral Service.

  • Wisconsin Coalition against Sexual Assault

    WCASA is a membership agency comprised of organizations and individuals working to end sexual violence in Wisconsin.

Learn More

You can find more information on this topic from these websites and publications:


Want to do more to help protect individuals with disabilities? Please visit our Take Action Page for some ideas and to sign up for news and other alerts from our website. Or Donate Now to help protect and advocate for the rights and futures of all Wisconsin citizens. We'd love to have you join us.

Get Help

Need further information or support? Please visit our Contact Page.