Time to invest in a targeted Action Plan to address violence against women and girls living with disability
Women and girls living with disability experience higher rates of sexual, physical and emotional abuse than women living without disability. They experience the same violence as those without disability as well as disability-related violence (such as violence from a care giver, violence from within a residential or institutional setting, or restrictive practice). Despite this, current support services are unequipped to provide the assistance so desperately needed. This must change.
Recent studies continue to find consistently higher rates of violence among women and girls with disability. (1) Those with intellectual disability or high care needs are even more likely to experience harm. (2)
However, historically the prevalence of violence against women and girls living with disability has been undocumented, unrecognised, and therefore unaddressed. The failure to document and record data, and therefore lack of statistical analysis, has resulted in policy makers and consecutive Federal Governments failing to produce targeted and effective policy responses. It is time we gave the voice back to women and girls living with disability and include them in the planning, decision-making, and design of services, to prevent violence against women and girls living with disability.
JFA Purple Orange hears too often that mainstream services are not equipped to assist women and girls living with disability who are experiencing violence and as a result are often ‘passed around’ various services as result of not ‘fitting’ nicely within the guidelines of one particular service (ie. the NDIS, homelessness services, domestic violence services, sexual assault services, the justice system etc.), until they eventually fall out of the system. (3)
Briefly, some of the barriers preventing women and girls living with disability from accessing appropriate services include (but are certainly not limited to):
- A lack of understanding by violence prevention and response services of the barriers facing women and girls living with disability.
- Current domestic violence policies often rely on the caregiver or family member to care for the person living with disability which is unacceptable when the same person is the perpetrator.
- The woman living with disability may not have access to documentation (such as identity, financial or residential documents) that is required by service providers (ie. the NDIS) due to the perpetrator being the ‘gate-keeper’ of physical records.
- Service providers (domestic violence or homelessness services for example) are often inaccessible to women and girls living with disability (physical, communication, sensory and other) and do not have adequate strategies to meet accessibility needs.
- There is increased prevalence of stigma associated with intellectual disability which often results in service providers (domestic violence or homelessness services for example) referring victims to other services (‘pass the buck’).
- There is very little communication and information sharing between service providers (ie. between the NDIS, domestic violence services, homelessness services etc.).
- There is a lack of current investment in independent individual and systemic advocacy services in South Australia.
- Lack of data and research available to drive changes on how we support women and girls with disability experiencing violence.
JFA Purple Orange acknowledges the commitment from all levels of government to the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguard Commission. This work is vital to ensure the quality and safety of NDIS participants. However, it is not a response to violence against women and girls living with disability, and under no circumstance can be the only policy response taken by the government.
The recent Federal Government (2022-23 Budget) commitment of $1.3 billion (over six years) to improve outcomes for women and girls’ safety is most welcome (although none has been specifically dedicated to women and girls living with disability). We also acknowledge the draft ten-year National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 (developed by the Department of Social Services) and the subsequent development of five-year action plans that will detail Federal and State governments priority focus areas for implementation. Of particular significance is the announcement of a targeted five year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan. However, JFA Purple Orange strongly advocates for the same commitment be afforded to women and girls living with disability through a genuine co-design process.
Without this, the 2021-22 Federal Government Budget commitment of $9.3 million (over three years) to “develop resources that aim to reduce violence against women and girls with disability and improve service responses when violence occurs” is completely inadequate in addressing the systemic and cultural issues that have allowed audism, ableism and gender inequality to exist in our society.
We can only change this if we are led and guided by those who are living and breathing these barriers every single day; those who have experienced violence at the hands of someone else and know all too well how current policy decisions are failing women and girls living with disability.
In the lead up to the federal election, JFA Purple Orange is calling on all political parties and candidates to commit to:
- Investing in data and statistical analysis of women and girls living with disability experiencing violence
- The co-design and implementation of a targeted five-year Action Plan for women and girls living with disability. The Action Plan should focus on the following (but certainly not limited to) -
- A holistic approach aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and girls with disability
- The promotion of autonomy and supported decision-making
- Addressing the specific and unique factors that expose women and girls with disability to violence
- Addressing the barriers preventing women and girls living with disability to access mainstream services and justice
- Targeted actions specific to addressing violence against First Nations, CALD and LGBTIQ+ women and girls with disability.
- Reducing the prevalence of violence against women and girls living with disability by ensuring their representation at the table of any policy planning and commissioning related to women’s safety and wellbeing
- Investing in implementing policy that will improve accessibility of mainstream support services for women and girls living with disability
- Significant and sustained investment in independent individual and systemic advocacy services across Australia.
Will you commit to investing in the co-design and implementation of a targeted, properly resourced, five-year Action Plan to address the prevalence of violence against women and girls living with disability?
For further information, please contact Robbi Williams, CEO of JFA Purple Orange, on
(08) 8373 8333 or email@example.com.
(1) Our Watch, & Women with Disabilities Victoria. (2022). Changing the landscape: A national resource to prevent violence against women and girls with disabilities. Melbourne, Australia: Our Watch.
(2) Krnjacki, L., Emerson, E., Llewellyn, G. and Kavanagh, M. (2016), “Prevalence and risk of violence against people with and without disabilities: findings from an Australian-based study”, Australia New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 16-21, doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12498.
Dowse, L., Soldatic, K., Spangaro, J. and van Toom, G. (2016), “Mind the gap: the extent of violence against women with disabilities in Australia”, Australian Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 51 No. 3, pp. 341-59, 383-85
(3) Fraser-Barbour, E. Crocker, R. Walker, R. (2018) “Barriers and facilitators in supporting people with intellectual disability to report sexual violence: perspectives of Australian and mainstream support providers”, The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol20. No. 1 pp5-16