Listen to Women with Disabilities

30 Sep 2022


Listen to Women with Disabilities

“If we could change one thing…it should be to make sure that no violence happens and if it does, people are safe to talk about it.” Fiona, Women with Disabilities Victoria member. International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women is on 25th November 2021. 

This is an important day to recognise as there are some alarming rates of violence against women with disabilities. Gender-based disability-based discrimination doubles the risk of violence for women and girls with disabilities as compared to women without.

Women living with disability were more likely to have experienced a range of violent behaviours over a 12-month period than women without disability, according to new figures released in April 2021 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, Will Milne, said new analysis of 2016 Personal Safety Survey data found women living with disability were more likely to have experienced physical violence, partner violence and emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and stalking, over a 12-month period.

“The greatest disparity in risk was found for partner violence, with results showing that women living with disability were nearly twice as likely as women without disability to have experienced violence by a partner over a 12-month period (2.5 % with 1.3 %).

“We also found that among people with disability, the risk of violence was higher for those aged 18 to 24 years (17 %).”

The new analysis also found that intellectual/psychological disability raised the risk of violence for both men and women.

“Women with an intellectual/psychological disability were nearly three times more likely than women with a physical disability to experience violence. For men the figure was over double,” said Mr. Milne.

Although three in four (74 %) women with a disability experienced anxiety or fear for their personal safety following their most recent incident of physical assault by a male, fewer than one in three (29 %) reported the incident to police. 

Please report or reach out for help

If you or anyone you know is in need or crisis please call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline 131 114.


Whether you are a service provider or participant, it is useful to know the following recommendations government and services have received from the Women living with Disabilities Victoria.

To prevent and respond to violence...

-Listen to women with disabilities: women report that the most important help they received was that people listened to them.

-Empower women: representation of women in staff, on boards and at all levels of decision making is a critical way to reduce discrimination and break down power imbalances.

-Provide accessible information on rights and services: “Unless you know the systems you don’t know what to ask for and you don’t have any power.” Sam, WDV member.

-Find out about services in your area: we need to work together to remove barriers for women with disabilities to access safety and justice.

-Understand the causes of violence against women with disabilities: layers of power and discrimination combined with negative stereotypes.

-Address discrimination: environments and attitudes are often disabling. Take steps to reduce the access barriers that you can see.