Targeted approach needed to end ‘alarmingly high’ rates of violence against women with disability
10 February 2022 at 8:12 am
“This is not a problem just for the disability community, it is everyone’s problem, and we all must be part of the solution”
With women with disability twice as likely to experience physical and sexual violence than their able-bodied counterparts, advocates have launched a new resource to help end violence against women with disabilities.
Launched on Wednesday, Our Watch and Women with Disabilities Victoria resource paints a picture of violence against women and girls with disabilities, the underlying causes, and what can be done to prevent it.
The resource is designed to accompany Our Watch’s updated guidelines which sets out a national approach to preventing violence against women and children.
It calls out sexism and ableism as the predominant causes for the “alarmingly high” rates of violence, which play out across all aspects of Australian society, including medical and disability services, workplaces, schools, governments and communities.
Jen Hargrave, senior policy advisor at Women with Disabilities Victoria and a woman with lived experience of disability, told Pro Bono News that women and girls with disability were more vulnerable in more settings than able-bodied women were.
“As well as experiencing violence from family and our partners in our private home, we’re in disability group homes or in mental health inpatient wards. We’ve got disability support workers coming into our homes to do things like help us go to bed and help us shower,” Hargrave said.
“This creates opportunities for people to abuse their power and I guess as a result, it means that we experience violence both from more perpetrators, in more places and over longer periods of time.”
An issue for everyone
Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said that this wasn’t an issue that women with disability should have to fight alone.
“This is not a problem just for the disability community, it is everyone’s problem, and we all must be part of the solution – to end this pervasive and unacceptable abuse,” Kinnersly said.
“Violence against women and girls with disabilities is not perpetrated by a ‘few bad apples,’ it looks like street harassment, controlling behaviours by paid and unpaid carers, doctors and policy-makers taking away reproductive choices, and institutional violence.”
She said that challenging ableist attitudes – such as the belief women and girls with disabilities need to be protected or excusing a carer’s abuse because they are “burnt-out” – and increasing the number of women with disabilities in leadership roles was a critical first step.
Hargrave added that this awareness and education needed to start at a young age.
“We’ve grown our conversations, particularly in Victoria, about the need for respectful relationships programs with young children,” she said.
“Women with disabilities are calling for more to be done to tackle ableism among young children too.
“This will mean that children with disabilities can benefit from those anti-ablest, anti-sexist messages as well.”
Access the resource here.