People with disability experience violence at higher rates than people without disability. In particular, women with disability are at greatest risk. Women with disability may also experience barriers to accessing support services.
Compared to women without disability, women with disability:
For many people with disability, recognising that what they are experiencing is violence and that this is a problem or a crime is a significant issue. This can be made worse by limited access to quality information and support. They may also lack the confidence to seek help or be unaware of the services available to support them.
Another barrier to seeking help or reporting violence is not being listened to. Often people with disability have limited control in family or institutional settings. In these environments, perpetrators are often seen by others (such as police and doctors) to be more believable.
Although women with disability are affected by similar types of violence as women in the wider community, they often experience different forms of physical, psychological and sexual violence. The violence may be perpetrated by a partner, relative, paid or unpaid support worker as well as strangers. In a residential or institutional setting the perpetrator could be another resident or staff member, a medical practitioner or a service provider. Those who rely on personal care assistance may be subject to frequent violence and abuse, ranging from neglect and poor care to economic, verbal and sexual abuse.
Examples of other forms of violence towards women with disability can include:
People with disability can be more likely to experience abuse due to a range of factors, including:
Workers need to be able to get support to people with disability in ways that take into account institutional cultures and practices. There are some practical things services can do to support people with disability who are affected by violence.
It is important to remember that the person comes before the disability. A common mistake many service providers make is to focus on issues of disability rather than what is most important to the person at that time (for example the need to escape a violent situation).
Be mindful of additional risks that the person you are supporting might be experiencing.
When supporting someone, keep in mind the following actions:
To ensure people with disability have equal access to support, remember to:
Safety planning for people with disability can pose greater challenges than for people without disability. As a starting point, a safety plan for a person with disability should:
When assisting someone to make a safety plan, you can encourage them them to find solutions that fit with their own situation. Use these points as prompts for discussion: