Another International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women (IDEVAW), another round of speeches expressing concern and commitments by politicians, and another year failing to address violence against women with disabilities.
Maybe we’re being hysterical insisting that something must be done to address the appalling levels of violence experienced by women with disabilities?
Maybe something was tried and it didn’t work, so we shouldn’t bother doing anything else?
Maybe this isn’t such a big deal and we should all just calm down?
No, no and no.
- 70 per cent of women with disabilities have experienced sexual violence (WWDA).
- 90 per cent of women with intellectual disabilities have experienced rape / sexual assault (WWDA).
- Twenty five per cent of rapes are against women with disabilities (CASA).
- Half of reported incidents of violence against women are against women with disabilities (ABS).
- Women with disabilities are forty per cent more likely to experience violence than other women (COAG).
Women with disabilities experience horrific levels of violence and Australian governments have continually failed to respond.
At the recent COAG summit on violence against women three of the delegates were women with disabilities - out of 190 delegates. This equates to just 1.5% of delegates, yet women with disabilities are about half of the issue we are working to address, we are also 20% of women. How will these appalling statistics ever change if there is no preparedness to even have women with disabilities in the room? This is either tokenism, or a complete lack of understanding, or both.
For two decades women with disabilities, through our representative groups, have raised concerns, highlighted what is happening, and tried to be heard. The most common response by governments so far has been “prove it”.
When the first three year action plan of the National Plan to Address Violence Against Women and Their Children was released in 2011 women with disabilities were named as one of four high risk target groups. Yet not a single project was funded in that triennial round to address the problem. Eventually, after significant lobbying by women with disabilities organisations a project designed to gather evidence was funded. We wanted outcomes, but were asked to “prove it” yet again.
The Council of Australian Governments has just released the third action plan for the National Plan. The first two action plans produced no outcomes for women with disabilities, and there are low expectations that anything will markedly change now. Once again more research is being undertaken to identify what violence against women with disabilities looks like, how it happens, and why.
How much evidence is really needed before someone notices that there is a major issue here?
What is going on? Why is there consistent naming of women with disabilities as a priority group, yet no outcomes are delivered?
For many years, including at the beginning the first action plan, women with disabilities have said it’s time for outcomes. We know there is a significant issue here, and we know what it looks like. We have written about it, spoken about it, lobbied governments about it, yet governments still fail to cover us with their laws and continue to want proof that this is even happening.
Is this because the problem is so big, and so confronting, that the natural response of any person is to avoid having to see it? After all, if governments do recognise the problem, and do start to address it, it will take resources. Is it better to just ignore it and hope it goes away?
Well it looks that way.
Women with disabilities know what is happening and we want outcomes.
We want governments to believe us.
We want governments to recognise who we are and what our experiences are.
We want governments to have us in the room to talk to them, in more than token numbers.
We want governments to hear what we have to say.
We want to be part of the solution.
We want governments to actually do something.
It’s time to eliminate violence against women with disabilities.