Risk of sexual violence double for disabled women

Risk of sexual violence double for disabled women

A research report released by the Disability Royal Commission examines the nature and extent of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation against people with disabilities in Australia.

The report has worryingly found that “nearly two thirds (64%) of people with disability reported experiencing physical or sexual violence, intimate partner violence, emotional abuse or stalking over the course of a lifetime.”

The statistics regarding young disabled women are even more concerning, with young women with disabilities aged 18 to 29 twice as likely to report experiencing sexual violence over their lifetime than those without a disability.

The report also uncovers the higher rates of intimate partner violence and emotional abuse experienced by women with disabilities. The data is sobering, with 36% of women with disability reporting experiencing violence by an intimate partner since the age of 15, compared with 21% of women without disability. And when it comes to emotional abuse, since the age of 15, one in three women with disability report emotional abuse by a current or previous partner (37%) compared with 20% of women without disability.

The issue is compounded by other factors, including financial hardship, with the report finding that “people with disability living in financial hardship three times more likely to experience violence.”

The report “was compiled from responses to the Personal Safety Survey, a national survey administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that collects data on experiences of interpersonal violence every four years.”

“There is limited publicly available data on the prevalence of violence and abuse experienced by people with disability in Australia, with even less information that specifically addresses issues of neglect and exploitation. The Personal Safety Survey (PSS) administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is currently the only national survey in Australia that collects data on experiences of interpersonal violence.”

Dr Georgina Sutherland, one of the report’s authors, has criticised the sidelining of disabled women’s voices, arguing that the issue is not that disabled women are not speaking out: 

“Women with disability do share their experiences of disclosing violence, and they’re discredited, they’re ignored. I think that’s the reason we have a royal commission.”