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AFI presents at Lifelines Domestic Violence Alert Trainers National forum.

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Several weeks ago one of our Training Officers, Sharon, attended a local focus group session about Lifelines Domestic Violence Alert training and the development of disability specific content.

Recognised for our expertise around the intersectionality between Woman with disability and Violence, Sharon was invited by Lifeline to present and be on an expert panel for discussion at their recent National Domestic Violence alert Trainers Forum.

The national DV Alert forum provides the Lifeline trainers with professional development. Over several days, discussions take place “focussing on collaboration, best-practice care, awareness campaigns, and referral pathways and building safer communities”. The  panel was asked to discuss Community Awareness and Prevention, and  Advocacy for Inclusion was there to specifically to talk about Disability, and a program developed by Advocacy for Inclusion called "Being Safe, Being Strong"

The Being Safe, Being Strong program has previously been recognised as a finalist in 2016 ACT Government  ‘Violence Prevention Award” in the community sector category.

The Being Safe, Being Strong program aims to build understanding among women with disabilities of their right to be safe from violence and their ability to identify the difference between safe and violent behaviours in relationships. The program also helps identify pathways to getting help and staying safe. It is the only program known of its type in Australia.

Sharon shares “As I spoke to the audience, I could see the messages and statistics I was sharing hitting home. I could see people writing down notes as I spoke - that people with disability are the largest minority group in the world yet other minorities are catered for and yet somehow services and resources are not automatically made accessible for people with disability. The gasps from the audience as I shared that women with disability are 40% more likely to be the victim of domestic violence, and I did notice the tears as I highlighted the very disturbing statistic that 90% of woman with a cognitive disability that has been sexually assaulted and that two-thirds of this woman had been assaulted before the age of 18”

In our individual advocacy work, we note a level of complacency towards violence by disability service providers when we raise issues of violence in their facilities with them. It seems to be systemically accepted. Disability support staff seem inured to it after years of having no alternative to offer, or perhaps having succumbed to a “culture of violence”. It seems that workers and managers in the disability service system are also not trained to recognise and respond appropriately to these incidents. This means that women with disabilities can be subjected to violence and abuse in their home for years.

Despite the heightened vulnerability and instances of violence experienced by women with disabilities, there is little in the way of legislative protections, programs and resources in response. For example, crisis accommodation appropriate to the needs of women with disabilities scarcely exists in Australia. Some women with disabilities have specific and significant support needs that would never be catered for in a women’s domestic violence shelter.

Given this background, Sharon made sure to highlight all the people that these trainers possibly had never thought of as being in a domestic violence situation that actually is – those in congregate living places and supported accommodation – those living in institutions.

Despite only having a short time to present it was clear the message was not lost. During the panel question time, there were questions about being more accessible, other attendees shared stories of their own training and acknowledging how they could be more accessible. We look forward to seeing in the future the new Disability module in the DV Alert Training.

To see further information about the forum

DV alert forum Sharon

 

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