December 3 is the International Day of People with Disability. Not only is violence against women the leading contributor to death, disease and disability in women aged 15-44 but, “it is now widely acknowledged that compared to non-disabled girls and women, women and girls with disabilities are at greater risk of severe forms of violence; they experience violence at significantly higher rates, more frequently, for longer, in more ways, and by more perpetrators”. The links between violence and disability go both ways, a correlation that in any just society should be completely and irrevocably avoidable.
Not only are women with disabilities at greater risk of violence but the access to support services, resources and pathways to safety for women with disabilities at risk of or experiencing violence, for the most part, simply aren’t there. The disadvantage and discrimination experienced by women with disabilities in this situation is manifold, going beyond the standard barriers and prejudice of both sexism and able-ism, to include factors such as “the reinforced demand for compliant behaviours, their perceived lack of credibility, their social isolation and lack of access to learning environments, their dependence upon others, their lack of access to police, support services, lawyers or advocates; the lack of public scrutiny of institutions; and the entrenched sub-culture of violence and abuse prevalent in institutions”.
There remains an enormous amount of work to be done in this area, firstly to provide women with disabilities with the resources and services to support them when they become victims of violence but, equally importantly, preventative work to challenge discriminatory beliefs and create a safe and equal culture for women with disabilities, a culture that will prohibit such abuses in the first place. Despite the significant setbacks that lack of knowledge, lack of understanding and lack of awareness continue to impose in this area, some great work is being done to shift our culturally-imposed ineptitude and challenge the silence and ignorance surrounding this issue.
- Exceptional ongoing advocacy, research and lobbying by Women With Disabilities Australia as have Women With Disabilities Victoria
- The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse have links to a range of Australian and international research, resources and projects
- There is currently a Senate Inquiry into the Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People with Disabilities in Australia
- Last year, then Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis announced funding for two new projects to support women with disabilities experiencing violence
- Read the devastatingly comprehensive submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from Women With Disabilities Australia
- Read ’16 days campaign: International Day of People with a Disability’, Something in Common