A shocking new report conducted by the University of New South Wales has revealed that violent experiences faced by disabled women are not only more common, but will last longer and result in more severe injuries.
Dr Leanne Dowse, lead researcher of the ‘Stop the Violence’ project, says a survey conducted as part of the research shows that service providers across the disability, justice and mental health sectors were able to identify that at least a quarter of women who presented to them had experienced violence in the last 12 months.
She believes the real numbers may be even higher.
‘One of the things we do know is that women with disabilities don’t tend to seek services,’ Dr Dowse told RN Breakfast.
‘When violence, disability and gender combine, generally speaking violent services aren’t equipped to deal with disability issues. They tend not to be accessible and tend not to be able to cater to the unique and specific needs of women with disabilities.
‘Disability services are not equipped to address the issues of violence. What we usually see is a referral system. Those (women) who do come forward tend to end up on a bit of a roundabout.’
Beyond issues with the way sectors juggle responsibility, the report also highlights the added risks that women with disability face.
‘There are risks related to the nature of the care relationship that women find themselves in,’ Dr Dowse said.
‘There’s often dependencies around care, medication, supports within the family and within the home. Women actually are unable to leave those care relationships because of the sort of dependencies that are inherent in them.
‘We see a lot of women with disabilities living in institutional arrangements… and also in marginal environments, so things like boarding houses. There are very high incidences of violence (in these places).’
According to today’s report, abuse in these environments is not only prolonged, but is often more severe and is perpetrated by multiple individuals, often fellow residents and carers. Dr Dowse says that legislative issues mean that often these situations aren’t dealt with as the domestic violence situations that they are.
‘For many women with disabilities, their domestic arrangements are not what is recognised as what is an ordinary domestic situation; so when we talk about a boarding house or institution, in legislation, those are not recognised as domestic arrangements,’ she said.
‘Even the structural and legislative processes don’t recognise not just the actual abuse itself but actually the context in which violence occurs for women.’
Indeed, the justice process is a difficult one, extending from the initial police response, where it is often difficult to determine if abuse has taken place, to the courts, where those with intellectual disabilities are often considered unreliable witnesses.
‘Once violence has occurred then there are a whole set of complexities for women with disabilities, not the least of which is that for many women with disabilities, their experience is that people don’t think they’re credible witnesses,’ Dr Dowse told Breakfast.
‘So even the nature of the prosecution process often fails women.
‘Women with communication impairments, who have other support needs in terms of communicating their experiences… often systems and services are just not equipped at all or have any kind of know-how about how to deal with those issues for women, to support them to be able to disclose the violence.’
(the title is a link)
And this is why I along with many other disabled people, especially women, queers, and/or people of color,
End up in abusive relationships
because it’s better than being raped to death in an institution.
This is a reality I had to face and a “choice” I had to make
when I was 16 years old.
THIS REPORT IS NOT “SURPRISING” TO ME.
Because I’ve never been allowed to forget how “UNIQUE AND SPECIFIC” my needs are.
And how the world “just isn’t equipped” to deal with them.
So, I get what I get. Right?
Dicky Sobsey, Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of People with Disabilities (Developmental Disabilities Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, 1988), pp.6,11.
When as a society we decide that people are ‘burdens’ is it really that surprising that abusers use it as an excuse for their behavior? Especially when it comes to individuals who can’t defend themselves?
I wonder if part of the reason so many young people get diagnosed with mental disorders in college is because that’s the only time they get access to mental health care without their parents telling them they’re making it up
THIS THIS THIS FOREVER AND EVER THIS!!!!!
or that the overwhelming stress of college is a direct result of the traditional western educational system not preparing students for the academic workload. This includes the stress of tuition, loans, and interpersonal and societal expectations.
It is December 6th, and I remember.
I was 13 years old when Marc Lépine opened fire and murdered 14 women for being at engineering school when he wasn’t. He blamed feminism for the situation he was in, and murdered these women for being in non-traditional jobs, for being there.
Every year, the memorials I go to are different. Some are quiet - I remember several winters in the snow, holding candles and reciting names like a talisman against violence.
Geneviève Bergeron, 21 years old. Hélène Colgan, 24 years old. Nathalie Croteau, 24 years old.
When I was younger, they seemed impossibly mature and sophisticated. I used to imagine them laughing and enjoying university, cut down without warning. Now that I’m 35, they seem so young, and I wonder if they were afraid.
Self reblog from last year. Still worth reading. Still remembering.
Today is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
I will not forget.