Women with disability in Australia experience many forms violence at higher rates than the rest of the population. This includes types of violence that are common amongst the general population, like domestic and family violence and sexual assault. However, it also includes institutional and medical forms of violence that are less common generally, such as abuse from carers and reproductive health violence like forced sterilisation, forced abortion, and forced contraception. Studies and surveys of people with disability have also found that:
- people with disability experience violence at much higher rates (47%) than people without disability (36%) 
- an estimated 57% of women with disability have experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence 
- many women acquire disability as a result of violence. In Australia, 40% of victims who are hospitalised due to family violence develop a sustained brain injury. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are more than 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence than non-Aboriginal women 
- 20% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with a mental health condition experience physical violence compared to 9% of people with other long term health conditions 
- 85% of women with psychosocial disability have felt unsafe in hospital. 
Tip: For more information about women with disability and violence, download the WWDA Position Statement 1: The Right to Freedom From all Forms of Violence
Responding to violence
If you see someone being violent or become aware that a woman or girl with a disability is being abused, it is your responsibility to make sure they are supported.
We have provided a video and tips below to help you.
Watch the 1800RESPECT video about supporting women who have experienced violence.
Bystander intervention is when you see or become aware of someone being violent and step in. Bystander intervention can take many forms. Depending on the situation, you can:
- talk to the person who is being violent
- talk to the victim/survivor and offer information for support services
- ask a professional for help. For example, if you are at a hospital, you could tell a nurse
- call the police and ask for help
- ask someone else to step in.
Is someone you know being abused in a relationship?
The Domestic Violence Resource Centre booklet can help you take action.
Download the booklet in multiple languages on the Domestic Violence Resource Centre website (external link).
1800RESPECT is an Australian nation-wide service that offers information, counselling and referrals to women who are experiencing or have been subjected to violence, abuse or sexual assault.
If you know someone experiencing violence and are not sure what to do, giving them the details for 1800RESPECT is a good first step. 1800RESPECT can be contacted on 1800737 732 or online (external link). You can learn more about responding to violence on the 1800RESPECT website (external link).
While we know that violence affects all women, it is often reported that services are not well equipped to support women and girls with disability who report violence. If you work for a disability or violence prevention service, there are things that you can do to prepare yourself and your organisation for supporting women with disability who experience violence.
- use the national Disability Standards (external link) to undertake an accessibility audit of your service and develop a code of conduct for staff that is inclusive of women with disability
- undertake Lifeline’s DV-Alert: Domestic and family violence response training (external link)
- have information readily accessible for all staff about nation-wide services that you can refer to, such as 1800RESPECT and use the 1800 RESPECT: Disability Support Toolkit (external link)
- include women with disability on your services’ Board
- ask women with disability what they think needs to be done to make your service more inclusive
- download and read the resources provided below.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People with Disability in Australia (external link).
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People with Disability in Australia: Sexual Harassment (external link).
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia: Continuing the National Story (external link).
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (external link).
 Victorian mental illness awareness council, cited in Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (2014) Beyond Doubt: The Experiences of People with Disabilities Reporting Crime – Research Findings (external link).