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Violence against women with disabilities strategies for safety through service improvements.

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Presentation on theme: "Violence against women with disabilities strategies for safety through service improvements."— Presentation transcript:

1 Violence against women with disabilities strategies for safety through service improvements

2 I would like to start by thanking the organisers for inviting Women with Disabilities Victoria to present at this session. It is particularly great to be here as one our board members is a Positive Woman, and has done extensive work to organise the Conference’s Disability Networking Zone.

3 Introduction Worldwide, women experience high rates of violence and sexual assault. While rates of STIs spread through assault are difficult to measure, we know it is a significant risk. After experiencing assault there are barriers to reporting, seeking support & treatment. Pakistani women protest against the abuse of women's rights at a rally to mark International Women's Day in Karachi. Photograph: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty

4 This month UNAIDS (July 2014) reported: Women and girls with disabilities experience all the risk factors for acquiring HIV. They are at higher risk of sexual violence than other women. This is a significant public health & human rights issue. 0 0. THE GAP REPORT

5 While Australians live in a peaceful county, experiences of violence are prevalent and severe in the lives of Australian women with disabilities. This is a reality across our life spans, from young to old, in metropolitan and rural areas, in our homes and in service settings.

6 This presentation will cover: Prevalence of violence against women with disabilities in Victoria Good practice examples of strategies for safety

7 The Voices Against Violence Project (2014) did a review of women with disabilities’ files at the Office of the Public Advocate. The review found that: 45 of 100 women reported experiencing violence These 45 women experienced violence at the hands of a total of 89 perpetrators 1 This research can be seen at Voices against violence 1. McGuire, Magdalena, 2014, Voices Against Violence, Women with Disabilities Victoria.

8 One woman reported 15 perpetrators in the course of her life. Another reported 37 perpetrators. One woman disclosed that she had been sexually assaulted up to 20 times by multiple perpetrators. 2 Voices against violence Most commonly perpetrators are intimate partners, but women with disabilities also commonly experience violence from multiple perpetrators including family, support workers and co-residents. 2.. McGuire, Magdalena, Woodlock, Delainie et al, 2014, Voices Against Violence, Women with Disabilities Victoria.

9 The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council found: 45% of women experienced sexual assault during a mental health hospital admission 67% of women reported experiencing harassment during mental health hospitalisation more than 80% lived in fear of being abused 3 3. VMIAC, 2013, ‘Zero Tolerance for Sexual Assault: A safe admission for women.’

10 The numbers found in these reviews are particularly stark when we consider that sexual assault is an under-reported crime.... and there are many, many barriers for women with disabilities to report and access support. We heard these barriers through interviews with women. Voices against violence

11 “People with commination difficulties need longer appointment times.” “No one believed me.” “For years they put my behaviour down to attention seeking because of my disability. Finally my doctor opened his bloody ears and heard what I was trying to say.” “He said if I told anybody he would put me in a home.” “The Police said it was my fault, that I shouldn’t have let the taxi driver in.” “They would take my kids.” “everybody looked up to him... “He kept saying it was my fault, and over time, I grew to believe him.” “It wasn’t until years later I found out it was a crime.” “I can’t use the phone. There was no way for me to tell anybody.” “He told them I was crazy. They believed him” …no interpreter.” …no independent transport.” “They didn’t know how to communicate with me “The staff did nothing.” “Police said there was no point taking it any further.”

12 Beyond these barriers there are additional service barriers for: Aboriginal women and Culturally isolated women Voices against violence

13 Governments and services must be informed of their responsibility to uphold human rights to safety and justice. So I would like to share some strategies for safety through 4 examples of good practice. Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women

14 # 1: accessible response services “Making Rights Reality” enhances existing services at a Sexual Assault Centre and a Legal Centre to create better access for people with speech impairments and intellectual disabilities.

15 Staff developed skills working with clients with little or no speech. Some clients use ‘communication boards’ to point at what they want to say. Most other services are inaccessible to them.

16 “Making Rights Reality” created a series of sexual assault information sheets in ‘Easy English’ for people with intellectual disabilities. You can see these by visiting their website.

17 The project evaluation found the services received a surge in disabled clients. In terms of justice outcomes, it is extremely rare for cases of crimes against women with disabilities to make it to court. But through this service, several court cases are pending, and one offender has been found guilty.

18 Hopefully in the near future we can be sharing good practice examples of working with men who choose to sexually assault women with disabilities.

19 # 2: inclusive policy In response to sustained advocacy, the Victorian Government and Police at times consult with women with disabilities when developing policies, plans & guidelines. As a result, key documents include specific strategies for women with disabilities. Family Violence Protection Act 2008 Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence 2014 Personal Safety Act 2010 Victoria’s action plan to address violence against women and their children 2012 Victorian Disability State Plan 2012 Sexual assault reform strategy 2006

20 # 3: prevention The Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault runs a sexual assault and education prevention programs in schools. They realised that, systemically, kids with disabilities are left out of education about safe sex and healthy relationships. They tailored a program for children with disabilities in a Special Developmental School. They took a whole of school approach, involving all staff across the school.

21 # 4: workforce development Disability services workers usually do not receive any violence against women awareness training. To address this gap, Women with disabilities Victoria are delivering a workforce development program on Gender and Disability. The program covers: recognising responding and preventing violence against women with disabilities.

22 The program is informed by the understanding that people who choose to use violence against women with disabilities tend to believe in: rigid gender roles male entitlement and target victims they see as less powerful 4 The program challenges these attitudes and behaviours. 4. Brownridge, D A, 2009, Violence Against Women: Vulnerable Populations, New York, Routledge. Brownridge, D A, 2006, ‘Partner Violence Against Women With Disabilities: Prevalence, Risk and Explanation’, Violence Against Women, 12

23 The really exciting thing about this training is that it is co-facilitated by women with disabilities. So staff can learn directly from women’s experiences. This Gender Training initiative will also empower disability service clients through a women’s peer support program.

24 So what can we learn from these programs? there are problems. there are solutions. the solutions are being implanted in isolated programs. We need a commitment from governments to resource systemic changes. For example, why don’t all children with disabilities receive sex education? why can’t all disability services receive violence awareness training?

25 The practice examples shared don’t require lots of money. They are about changing attitudes sectors working together listening to women with disabilities

26 Thank you To find out more about our research and projects visit

27 “Go to a… women’s organisation (or someone you can trust) that is likely to believe you. ‘Cause that’s the first thing you want... There’s nothing worse than going to somebody and they don’t believe you, and then you often stop there and you don’t follow it through. The other thing for people with disabilities, be strong in yourself and know that what you’re feeling, if it’s feeling wrong, then it is wrong.” Michelle

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