Abuse of Women with Disability

Women with a disability may be particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence for a number of reasons. Depending on the particular disability, these reasons include:


Being dependent on people who may abuse their power, such as a carer


Isolation, where the more isolated and closed a Woman’s living situation, the more vulnerable she may be to abuse


Being perceived as having a lack of credibility so that women with a disability are not believed or taken seriously




Being denied the right to information because it is inaccessible or there are communication differences


Lack of information about sexuality, unacceptable behaviour, legal rights and/or


Low self esteem resulting from low status and lack of social acceptance.

For all of the above reasons, women with disabilities may be more vulnerable to violence.

Research has established that women with disabilities experience violence at a higher rate, for longer periods and are less likely to report abuse, than women with disabilities (Healey, 2008 as cited by 'Women with Disabilities, Victoria)

Women with disabilities also tend to be:

  • poorer than other women
  • experience more isolation
  • can be more dependent on partners, family members or carers

They can therefore be subjected to abuse that does not necessarily fit traditional definitions of violence e.g.:

  • withholding equipment, food and medication;
  • limiting access to communication devices
  • threats of institutionalisation.

(from Women with Disabilities Victoria)

The legal system has many barriers for women with disabilities. For example, there is a lack of accessible information about rights and the legal process. Many people with a disability have difficulty in communicating their experiences and in being believed by workers within the legal system. Often a Woman will need an advocate to assist her in dealing with the legal system. An advocate can assist in getting people within the legal system, such as the police, to understand the nature of the Woman’s disability and to take this into account.

For an overview of the status of women with disabilities in Australia go to - Gender and Disability


Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) published its Resource Manual on Violence Against Women With Disabilities.

The Manual is made up of four booklets and these are:
A Life Like Mine! - Narratives from women with disabilities who experience violence
Forgotten Sisters - A global review of violence against women with disabilities
It's Not Ok It's Violence - Information about domestic violence and women with disabilities
Ordering information is available at: Women with Disabilities Australia
This is the website of Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) - http://www.wwda.org.au/contents.htm


‘Building the Evidence’ Report (2008) - http://www.wdv.org.au/publications.htm#bte
A Framework For Influencing Change – Responding to Women with Disabilities - http://www.wdv.org.au/publications.htm#influencing_change
Women with Disabilities Victoria Collaborate with VicHealth to Address Violence - http://www.wdv.org.au/publications.htm#vichealth

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria has the following publication:

Getting safe against the odds – available at http://www.dvrcv.org.au/disability/
Triple Disadvantage –Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Violence Against Women with Disabilities Project – available at http://www.dvrcv.org.au/publications/books-and-reports/

Federation of Community Legal Centres:
Rights Reality Project – Access to Justice for Sexual Assault Survivors with Cognitive Impairment. http://www.fclc.org.au/cb_pages/federation_reports.php

NSW Network of Women with Disability:http://mdaa.org.au/service/advocdev/NSW-Network-of-Women-Index.html


For more information see Articles 

(This information is kindly supplied by Women’s Legal Service, Brisbane “Queensland Women and the Legal System”)

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