Sixty-five percent of Australian women and girls with disabilities have experienced violence since the age of 15, with the marginalised group around three times as likely to endure violence compared to their non-disabled counterparts, a shocking new report has found.
The study, from violence prevention agency Our Watch and Women with Disabilities Victoria, say the heightened rates of violence stem from the intersection of ableism and gender inequality, with long-held negative stereotypes particularly to blame.
The research points explicitly to Australia’s culture of toxic masculinity, gender stereotyping and social segregation.
Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said this kind of violence is “preventable, not inevitable.”
"It is not just a problem for the disability community, it is everyone’s problem, and we all must be part of the solution — to end this pervasive and unacceptable abuse,” Kinnersly wrote in a Twitter thread while promoting the new report. “It means challenging ableist attitudes — such as the belief women and girls with disabilities need to be protected, or excusing a carer’s abuse because they are ‘burnt-out’.”
Kinnersly added that violence against disabled women is often compounded by ageism, classism and racism.
Today in partnership with @WDVtweet, we’ve launched #ChangingTheLandscape a national, evidence-based approach to preventing the alarmingly high rates of violence experienced by women and girls with disabilities. https://t.co/95ykT7OLTi— Our Watch (@OurWatchAus) February 9, 2022
Natasha Stott Despoja, the inaugural chair of Our Watch and board member of Global Citizen Oceania, said six critical actions must be taken to prevent violence against women and girls with disabilities from occuring in the first place.
To directly address the underlying drivers of violence, policymakers and everyday Australians must challenge the normalisation of violence and sexist stereotypes while promoting the independence and inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in all aspects of life.
Men and boys must likewise work to examine and challenge their conceptions of masculinity — as well as that of their peers.
"The voices of women with disabilities have often been excluded from policy, data collection approaches, community discussions and responses to violence,” Stott Despoja wrote in the report. “Action to prevent this violence and promote gender and disability equality must be taken at all levels of society — we all have a role to play.”
A separate 2020 report revealed young Australians aged between 15 to 19 living with a disability are twice as likely as their peers to have endured bullying, with a quarter of young disabled Australians reporting thoughts of suicide, compared to 13.5% of young people without disability.
A 2019 report, meanwhile, showed disability was the leading reported case of discrimination nationwide.
Prejudice against people with disabilities outweighed all other forms of bias, including race, gender and sexual orientation.