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People with disability

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People with disability are more likely to be victim-survivors of family, domestic and sexual violence (FDSV) than people without disability (CRE-DH 2021; DSS 2022). People with disability can also be affected by different forms of FDSV and experience additional barriers to getting help. Understanding the experiences of people with disability, as a group, can provide helpful information for organisations providing services to people with disability. This page presents the available national data on FDSV among people with disability.

What are the forms of FDSV experienced by people with disability?

People with disability can experience the same forms of FDSV as the general population (see What is FDSV?). However, they may also experience distinct types of violence, violence across a wider range of settings (for example, in institutions, group homes, and long term hospital stays) and from a greater range of people (for example, carers and support workers), see Box 2. Due to varying definitions of family and domestic violence (FDV) in Australia, violence in some situations may not be recognised as FDV (for example, from a carer or staff in residential settings) and protections and supports related to FDV may not be available (RCVANEPD 2021a). Forms of FDSV that are unique to people with disability or that may be more likely include:

  • abuse focused on the disability
  • threats of institutionalisation, abandonment, withdrawal of care and health information disclosure
  • withdrawal of medication, care and other assistance
  • interference with mobility aids, equipment and medication
  • medical exploitation, including forced psychiatric interventions and reproductive violence, such as forced sterilisation, abortion and contraception
  • restrictive practices such as restraints and seclusion
  • a perpetrator controlling aspects of their lives including movement and finances (Australian Government 2022; RCVANEPD 2021a; eSafety 2021a; RCVANEPD 2022).

For further discussion of forms of FDSV experienced by all people, see What is FDSV?.

What do we know about FDSV among people with disability?

People with disability are more likely to experience FDSV than people without disability in Australia and can experience greater difficulty getting support (DSS 2022; RCVANEPD 2020a). The economic cost of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation experienced by people with disability in Australia was conservatively estimated to be at least $46 billion in 2021–22. When considering the gaps in outcomes seen for people with disability the conservative estimate increased to $75 billion (Vincent et al. 2022).

Exposure to FDV as a child or young person with disability

Exposure to FDV among children and young people with disability can have lasting negative effects on their social, emotional and cognitive development and overall health and wellbeing. Exposure to FDV refers to any experiences of FDV apart from being the direct target of abuse, including witnessing patterns of non-physical controlling behaviours between family members (Orr 2020).

There is no national data on the prevalence of exposure to FDV among children and young people with disability. An analysis of state-linked data from Western Australia shows that children with disability are more likely to be exposed to FDV in a variety of ways and that exposure can be associated with an increased risk of mental health conditions or mental health service use, see Box 3.

Factors related to experiencing FDSV among people with disability

People with disability can be more likely to experience FDSV than people without disability due to a range of factors including:

  • discrimination and marginalisation
  • reliance on the perpetrator of violence, for example, for care, mobility, and/or income
  • insufficient safeguards in institutional and group living situations
  • not fully understanding the abuse or its seriousness
  • reduced impulse control and help seeking behaviour
  • social isolation
  • communication challenges
  • barriers preventing them from getting help (Australian Government 2022; eSafety 2021b; RCVANEPD 2022).

Risk factors that can increase the likelihood that people in the general population will experience FDSV may also have greater effects among people with disability, see Factors associated with FDSV.

Barriers to seeking help

While people with disability can experience the same barriers to seeking help for FDSV as the general population, some are distinct to people with disability or may have greater impact due to disability, including:

  • a lack of trust that they will be believed or taken seriously, potentially due to prior experiences of discrimination and minimisation
  • feelings of shame or self-blame
  • insufficient accessible information about ways to report, rights, and available support
  • physical barriers to accessing services
  • fear of negative consequences of reporting, including retaliation, criminalisation, ostracisation from family and/or community, and loss of support and/or access to children
  • inadequate specialised support services
  • normalisation of abuse and/or being controlled (eSafety 2021a, 2021b; Maher et al. 2018; RCVANEPD 2022).

What are some of the barriers to seeking help?

'We still have a long way to go, to make services accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities and/or mental illness escaping family violence. I have been advocating for refuge reforms, to make them more accessible, but unfortunately physical access (which is one type of accessibility) has been the only reform considered.'

Anonymous

WEAVERs Expert by Experience

For further discussion of barriers to getting help experienced by all people, see How do people respond to FDSV?.

Impacts of experiences of FDSV

Experiences of FDSV can have dramatic, life-long negative effects on:

  • health and wellbeing, through resultant injury, mental illness and loss of life satisfaction, as well as higher rates of health risk factors, including smoking, poor diet, and isolation
  • education, employment and financial security (RCVANEPD 2020a; Vincent et al. 2023).

Further research is required to better understand and quantify the negative impacts caused by experiences of FDSV among people with disability.

For a discussion of the impacts and outcomes of FDSV among all people, see Behavioural outcomes, Health outcomes and Economic and financial impacts.

Measuring FDSV among people with disability

There are no nationally consistent data sets available to describe the extent of FDSV experiences among all people with disability (Octoman 2022). While data are available across a number of surveys and administrative data sources to look at the prevalence, service responses and outcomes of FDSV among people with disability, the majority are restricted to particular states or territories. 

This page focuses mainly on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Personal Safety Survey (PSS, see Data sources and technical notes), which is currently the best source of population level estimates of adults with disability who have experienced FDSV. However, the PSS has limitations in its ability to estimate experiences of FDSV among people with disability (see Box 4).

Importantly, it is not possible with data from the PSS to determine if a person had disability at the time they experienced violence as the PSS collects information about disability at the time of the interview and information about experiences of violence in the 12 months prior to the survey, since the age of 15 and before the age of 15 (ABS 2017).

This page mainly reports on experiences of FDSV since the age of 15 and before the age of 15. This type of reporting can help us understand how many people with disability may require access to support, given the long-term effects of experiences of FDSV. However, it cannot show whether disability is a risk factor for, or outcome of, experiencing FDSV. Data on FDSV in the 12 months prior to the survey can be useful to see whether the experience of violence has changed over time (ABS 2017).

What do the data tell us?

How common is the experience of FDSV among people with disability?

Family and domestic violence

There are limited data from the 2021–22 ABS PSS that are sufficiently statistically reliable to report on patterns in experiences of FDSV among women with disability and no sufficiently statistically reliable data for men with disability. As such, the latest available estimates of experiences of FDV, including intimate partner violence and partner emotional abuse, are primarily sourced from the 2016 ABS PSS. 

  • 21%

    of adults with disability in 2016 had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a current or previous intimate partner since the age of 15

    Source: ABS Personal Safety Survey

The perpetrator was known to the majority (81%, or 2.2 million) of people aged 18 years and over (adults) with disability in 2016 who reported that they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15 (hereafter referred to as violence) (AIHW 2022a). The most common perpetrators of violence were intimate partners (21% of all adults with disability in 2016 or 1.2 million people) (AIHW 2022a).

Experiences of violence from an intimate partner or parent since the age of 15 were more common among adults with disability in 2016 (21% and 5.2%, respectively) than adults without disability (13% and 3.0%, respectively), with the highest proportions among those with severe or profound disability (29% and 6.7%, respectively). Similar patterns were apparent for perpetrators with other family relationship types (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Proportion of adults who experienced physical and/or sexual violence since age 15, by disability status and relationship to perpetrator, 2016

*: estimate has a relative standard error (RSE) between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.

Source: ABS PSS 2016 | Data source overview

A higher proportion of adults with disability in 2016 (20% or 1.1 million) experienced abuse before the age of 15 than adults without disability (11% or 1.3 million), with about 3 in 10 (28% or 198,000) adults with severe or profound disability (AIHW 2022a).

For both adults with and without disability in 2016, the most common perpetrators of abuse before the age of 15 were:

  • parents/step-parents (10% of all adults with disability, 16% of all adults with severe or profound disability and 5.4% of all adults without disability)
  • known people who are not family members (8.2% of all adults with disability, 9.9% of all adults with severe or profound disability and 4.0% of all adults without disability) (AIHW 2022a).

Intimate partner violence and partner emotional abuse

  • 30% of women with disability

    11% of men with disability

    in 2016 had experienced partner violence since the age of 15

    Source: ABS Personal Safety Survey

Analysis of the 2016 PSS shows that the proportion of adults who had experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15 was higher among:

  • adults with disability (21%, or 1.2 million) than adults without disability (13%, or 1.7 million)
  • women with disability (30%, or 892,000) than men with disability (11%, or 303,000)
  • women with severe or profound disability (36%, or 163,000) than men with severe or profound disability (16%, or 41,300) (AIHW 2022a).

The available data from the 2021–22 PSS shows that violence by a cohabiting partner was experienced in the 2 years prior to the survey by 2.2% (68,600) of women with disability and 1.5% (99,400) of women without disability (ABS 2023a).

The proportion of adults in 2016 who had experienced partner emotional abuse since the age of 15 was higher among:

  • adults with disability (26%, or 1.5 million) than adults without disability (17%, or 2.1 million)
  • women with disability (32%, or 929,000) than men with disability (20%, or 556,000)
  • women with severe or profound disability (39%, or 179,000) than men with severe or profound disability (27%, or 69,900) (AIHW 2022a).

Adults with psychological disability (39%) or head injury, stroke or brain damage (30%) in 2016 were the most likely to have experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15.

Some adults with disability in 2016, such as those with psychological disability, were more likely than other adults with disability to have experienced intimate partner violence and partner emotional abuse since the age of 15 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Proportion of adults with disability who experienced intimate partner violence and partner emotional abuse since age 15, by type of disability, 2016

Source: ABS PSS 2016 | Data source overview

Similarly, the available data from 2021–22 shows that a higher proportion of women with psychosocial disability (6.1% or 37,200) than other women with disability or women without disability (1.5% or 99,400) experienced violence by a cohabiting partner in the 2 years prior to the survey (ABS 2023a).

Types of emotional abuse

The latest available PSS data (2016) shows that adults with disability were more likely than adults without disability to report some types of emotional abuse from their most recent previous partner that was emotionally abusive, including:

  • insults intended to cause shame or humiliation (56%, or 668,000 compared with 46%, or 707,000)
  • financial abuse (50%, or 591,000 compared with 37%, or 579,000)
  • deprivation of basic needs such as food, shelter, sleep or assistive aids (14%, or 172,000 compared with 8%, or 124,000) (AIHW 2019).

Note that more than one type of emotional abuse could be selected thus proportions sum to more than 100% (AIHW 2019).

Adults with disability in 2016 were more likely than adults without disability to report that they had experienced emotional abuse from more than 1 previous partner (24%, or 282,000 compared with 16%, or 244,000) (AIHW 2019).

Sexual violence

The latest available estimates of lifetime experiences of sexual violence and harassment among adults with disability are available from the 2016 PSS. Data from the 2021–22 PSS provide some additional insights into recent experiences of sexual violence and harassment among women with disability.

Adults with severe or profound disability (24%) in 2016 were about 3 times as likely as adults without disability (9.6%) to report they had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

The proportion of adults in 2016 who had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 was higher among:

  • adults with disability (16%, or 935,000) than adults without disability (9.6%, or 1.2 million)
  • women with disability (25%, or 748,000) than men with disability (6.6%, or 187,000)
  • women with severe or profound disability (30%, or 140,000) than men with severe or profound disability (13%, or 32,300) (AIHW 2022a).

The proportion of adults in 2016 who had experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15 was higher among:

  • adults with disability (43%, or 2.5 million) than adults without disability (37%, or 4.7 million)
  • women with disability (57%, or 1.7 million) than men with disability (28%, or 799,000)
  • women with severe or profound disability (58%, or 264,000) than men with severe or profound disability (38%, or 96,400) (AIHW 2022a).

The available data on recent experiences from the 2021–22 PSS showed a higher proportion of women with disability reported experiences of:

  • sexual violence in the last 2 years (4.0%, or 127,000) compared with women without disability (2.5%, or 167,000) (ABS 2023c)
  • sexual harassment in the last 12 months (14%, or 459,000) compared with women without disability (12%, or 793,000), with even higher proportions for women with only schooling/employment restrictions (25%, or 98,700) or severe or profound disability (19%, or 78,000) (ABS 2023b).

Data were not available for men with disability (ABS 2023b, 2023c).

Women with psychosocial disability (12%) in 2021–22 were the most likely to have experienced sexual violence in the last two years.

Some women with disability in 2021–22, such as those with psychosocial, head injury, stroke or acquired brain injury, or learning and understanding disability, were more likely than other women with disability to have experienced sexual violence in the last 2 years or sexual harassment in the last 12 months (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Proportion of women with disability who experienced sexual violence in the last 2 years or sexual harassment in the last 12 months, by type of disability, 2021–22

*: estimate has a relative standard error (RSE) between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.

Source: ABS PSS 2016 | Data source overview

While 2021–22 PSS data for men with disability were not available, data from the 2016 PSS shows a similar pattern for men – men with psychological disability were more likely than other men with disability to have experienced either sexual violence or sexual harassment since the age of 15 (AIHW 2022a).

Experiences of sexual abuse before the age of 15

The latest available PSS data (2016) shows that the proportion of adults who had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15 was higher among:

  • adults with disability (12%, or 671,000) than adults without disability (5.8%, or 738,000)
  • women with disability (16%, or 477,000) than men with disability (6.9%, or 194,000)
  • women with severe or profound disability (22%, or 98,600) than men with severe or profound disability (9.8%*, or 25,200) (AIHW 2022a).

Note that estimates marked with an asterisk (*) should be used with caution as they have a relative standard error between 25% and 50%.

Adults with psychological disability (21%, or 186,000) or head injury, stroke or brain damage (18%, or 33,500) in 2016 were the most likely to have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15 (AIHW 2022a).

Types of sexual harassment

The latest available PSS data (2016) shows that adults with disability were more likely than adults without disability to report that they had ever experienced some types of sexual harassment, including:

  • unwanted touching, grabbing, kissing or fondling (25%, or 1.5 million compared with 20%, or 2.5 million)
  • inappropriate comments about body or sex life (24%, or 1.4 million compared with 21%, or 2.7 million)
  • indecent exposure (18%, or 1.1 million compared with 14%, or 1.8 million)
  • indecent phone call (15%, or 882,000 compared with 10%, or 1.3 million) (AIHW 2022a).

Note that more than one type of sexual harassment could be selected thus proportions may sum to more than 100% (AIHW 2022a).

Sexual harassment in the workplace

The 2022 Australian Human Rights Commission’s national survey on sexual harassment in workplaces (the AHRC national survey) asked people aged 15 and over about their experiences of sexual harassment in workplaces in the previous 5 years. The AHRC included behaviours more commonly associated with sexual violence in their definition of harassment, for example, rape or sexual assault, and determined disability through self-identification.

Nearly half (48%) of people with disability had been sexually harassed in their workplace in the previous 5 years (compared with 32% of people without disability) with:

  • over half (54%) of women with disability and nearly 2 in 5 (38%) men with disability
  • an increase since 2018 (44% of people with disability, with 52% of women and 35% of men with disability) (AHRC 2022).

See Sexual violence for more information.

Technology-facilitated abuse

People with disability were 1.4 times more likely to have experienced technology-facilitated abuse in their lifetime than those without disability in 2022

A nationally representative study of around 4,600 people aged 18 years and over in 2022 investigated experiences of technology-facilitated abuse (TFA) (see Glossary) among people who self-identified as having disability. This study estimated that about 3 in 5 (57%) people with disability had experienced any TFA in their lifetime (TFA lifetime victimisation):

  • Having disability was a significant predictor of TFA lifetime victimisation, with those with disability 1.4 times more likely than those without.
  • A higher proportion of women with disability (59%) than men with disability (55%) reported lifetime TFA victimisation (Powell et al. 2022).

TFA among all people was most commonly perpetrated by intimate partners and was associated with high levels of psychological distress in victim-survivors (Powell et al. 2022).

People with disability (25%) and those without (22%) were similarly likely to have ever perpetrated TFA in their lifetime (lifetime TFA perpetration). Among the whole population, TFA perpetration was much more common when there had been TFA victimisation (39% compared with 6.0%) (Powell et al. 2022).

For information on TFA among all people, see Stalking and surveillance.

People with disability as perpetrators of FDSV

There is limited data and research related to the use of FDSV by people with disability. Research about harmful sexual behaviours and the use of family violence among children and young people has indicated that there may be a larger representation of people with disability among people displaying these behaviours in Australia (Fitz-Gibbon et al. 2022; RCIRCSA 2017a). However, more research is required to further investigate these findings. For a discussion of harmful sexual behaviours and adolescent family violence among the general population, see Child sexual abuse and Family and domestic violence, respectively.

FDSV-related homicide among people with disability

There is limited data available on homicides related to FDSV among people with disability.

The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network and Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety collaborated to analyse cases of intimate partner homicides preceded by a reported or anecdotal history of violence between the offender and victim (IPV homicides) between July 2010 and June 2018 (ADFVDRN and ANROWS 2022).

A smaller proportion of both males and females with disability were IPV homicide offenders or victims than the representation of people with disability in the general population (18%). People with disability were only identified among:

  • about 1 in 15 female IPV homicide victims of males (or 6.7%)
  • about 1 in 11 female IPV homicide offenders who killed a male (or 9.2%)
  • about 1 in 12 male IPV homicide victims of females (or 8.5%)
  • about 1 in 10 male IPV homicide offenders who killed a female (or 9.3%) (ADFVDRN and ANROWS 2022).

Note that people with disability may have been under-reported in this analysis (see Data sources and technical notes).

See Domestic homicide for further discussion of homicides related to FDSV.

What are the responses to FDSV for people with disability?

Helplines and related support services

There are a number of general and specialised helplines in Australia that provide information, advice and support to people with disability who are experiencing or at risk of FDSV. See Helplines and related support services for a discussion of such services including but not limited to:

  • the National Counselling and Referral Service, which provides counselling, information, support and referrals to services for people with disability who have witnessed or experienced violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • the Blue Knot Foundation, a support service for people affected by complex trauma and a National Redress Scheme service provider (Blue Knot Foundation 2021).

The National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline is a service for reporting any abuse and neglect, not limited to FDV, of people with disability, see Box 6 for further discussion.

Police responses

The Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability received reports that people with disability are disproportionately represented as victims, offenders and witnesses in the criminal justice system (Dowse et al. 2021).

However, due to long standing challenges and gaps in the collection of disability status in existing data collections, there is limited data available on FDSV-related recorded crimes among people with disability (Ringland et al. 2022a). One method to fill these gaps in data is to link data related to recorded crimes with data that identifies people with disability. Data linkage has recently been used in a test pilot of the National Disability Data Asset to investigate recorded crime among people with disability in NSW, see Box 7.

Specialist homelessness services

Specialist homelessness services (SHS) can provide assistance to people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, including clients who have experienced FDV. The SHS Collection identifies disability using a shortened version of the AIHW Standardised Disability Flag module. This enables reporting on SHS use and outcomes among people with disability (AIHW 2022b).

About 24,000 people with disability were SHS clients (8.8% of all SHS clients) in 2021–22 (AIHW 2022c). Of these, about 1 in 3 (33% or about 7,800) SHS clients with disability had experienced FDV, with:

  • 45% (or 5,800) of female SHS clients with disability
  • 18% (or 2,000) of male SHS clients with disability (AIHW 2022c).

A smaller proportion of SHS clients with disability had experienced FDV (33%) than SHS clients without disability (40%) (AIHW 2022c).

The main reason that SHS clients with disability who had experienced FDV sought SHS support was domestic and family violence (50%) followed by housing crisis (14%). People with disability who had experienced FDV were less likely than those without disability to report domestic and family violence as their main reason but more likely to report other main reasons (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Top 5 main reasons SHS clients with and without disability who have experienced domestic and family violence sought support, 2021–22

Source: AIHW SHSC | Data source overview

From 2013–14 to 2021–22, the proportion of SHS clients who have experienced FDV who had disability has varied between 5.9% in 2013–14 (or about 5,000 clients) and 8.3% in 2016–17 (or 9,500), with 7.3% in 2021–22 (or 7,800) (AIHW 2022c).

Housing outcomes

Fewer specialist homelessness services clients with disability who have experienced FDV were homeless by the end of support (about 1,400) compared with at the start of support (about 1,900) in 2021–22.

Many clients who are supported by SHS have achieved or progressed towards a more positive housing situation by the end of their support. Among SHS clients with disability who have experienced FDV and whose ongoing SHS support ended in 2021–22:

  • fewer clients were homeless at the end of support (about 1,400) compared with their first period of support in 2021–22 (about 1,900)
  • more clients were housed at the end of support (about 2,600) compared with their first period of support in 2021–22 (about 2,200) (AIHW 2022c).

For information about all people who use SHS services and have experienced FDV, see Housing.

Has it changed over time?

PSS data on the rate of experiences of FDSV among people with disability in the 12 months prior to the survey (the 12-month prevalence rate) can be used to report on changes over time. Comparing 2012 with 2016, among people with disability, the 12-month prevalence rate of:

  • sexual violence was stable (1.3% and 1.4%, respectively), with a lower rate among adults without disability in 2012 (0.6%) and a similar rate in 2016 (1.2%)
  • sexual harassment increased from 12% to 15%, with lower rates among adults without disability (10% in 2012 and 13% in 2016)
  • intimate partner violence was relatively stable (1.9% and 2.4%, respectively), with a similar rate among adults without disability in 2012 (1.4%) and a lower rate among adults without disability in 2016 (1.4%)
  • emotional abuse by a partner increased from 4.5% to 5.6%, with lower rates among adults without disability (3.4% and 4.0%, respectively) (ABS 2021).

Data for the 12-month prevalence rate of sexual harassment among women with disability was also available for 2021–22. The prevalence rate remained similar between 2012 (17%) and 2016 (19%) and decreased in 2021–22 (14%). This is consistent with results for the general population (ABS 2021, 2023b). Data for the 12-month prevalence rate of intimate partner violence and emotional abuse by a partner among women with disability are not available for 2021–22 (ABS 2023a).

These changes over time may be due to a number of reasons. The most recent PSS was conducted between March 2021 and May 2022, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are continuing to learn about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on FDSV, which first occurred in Australia between March to April 2020. The 2-year period following the onset of the pandemic involved many changes to people’s living circumstances. These changes, and the potential flow-on effects to a person’s likelihood of experiencing violence, are discussed in more detail in FDSV and COVID-19.

Is it the same for everyone?

People from diverse sociodemographic and cultural groups can have disability, and experiences of violence can occur in intersecting ways (see Factors associated with FDSV). National data on these intersections are limited, for example there are no national data on violence among people with disability who live in institutional and/or other care settings. The Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability (the Royal Commission) collected recent research about FDSV among diverse population groups and heard from people and organisations about these issues.

For a general discussion of FDSV among specific population groups, see Population groups.

First Nations people with disability

While there is limited national data specific to experiences of FDSV among First Nations people (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) with disability, available research shows that:

  • there is a higher proportion of people with disability or a restrictive long-term health condition among First Nations people (estimated to be 45% in 2014–15) compared with the general population (18%) (ABS 2016)
  • it is likely that First Nations people with disability experience intersectional discrimination and disadvantage, which can increase the risk of experiencing FDSV and restrict access to support (AHRC 2020; RCVANEPD 2020b)
  • First Nations women with disability are likely to experience high rates of emotionally abusive, harassing and controlling behaviours and are more likely than non-Indigenous women with disability to experience domestic physical or sexual violence, and coercive control (Boxall et al. 2021).

Culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability

Respondents to a public hearing for the Royal Commission highlighted the following about experiences of FDV among culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability:

  • There can be many barriers to reporting violence, including lack of knowledge about processes in Australia, fear of authority and discrimination, and entrenched attitudes towards women and their roles in families (RCVANEPD 2021b).
  • a lack of specialised, trauma-informed staff, support workers and processes can prevent people from engaging with the criminal justice system or influence the outcomes received (RCVANEPD 2021b).
  • a survey of recent violence during the pandemic found that women with disability from non-English speaking backgrounds were more likely than those from English speaking backgrounds to have experienced domestic physical or sexual violence, and coercive control (Boxall et al. 2021).

LGBTIQA+ people with disability

A report commissioned by the Royal Commission in 2019 used data from two national non-representative surveys of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual people, or people otherwise diverse in gender, sex or sexual orientation) young people and adults, Private Lives 3 and Writing Themselves In 4, to provide some insights into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation among LGBTIQ people with disability. There was not a sufficient number of participants with disability with an intersex variation in either survey for the data to reflect their experiences. Private lives 3 included about 2,600 people identified as having disability through the AIHW Standardised Disability Flag module and Writing Themselves in 4 included 2,500 people who self-identified as having disability or a long-term health condition (Hill et al. 2022). The report found that:

  • about 1 in 3 (32%) respondents with disability aged 14–21 experienced sexual harassment or assault in the previous 12 months due to their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • a higher proportion of adult respondents with severe (16%) or moderate (11%) disability reported experiencing sexual assault in the previous 12 months than respondents without disability (6.7%)
  • most adult respondents with severe (73%), moderate (69%) or mild (67%) disability reported experiencing violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, compared with 55% of respondents without disability
  • most adult respondents with severe (81%), moderate (78%) or mild (69%) disability reported experiencing violence from a family member in their lifetime, compared with 55% of respondents without disability
  • FDSV was experienced by a higher proportion of adult respondents with disability from multicultural backgrounds, living in rural or remote areas, or who were trans or gender diverse compared with other groups (Hill et al. 2022).

Younger and older people with disability

Children, young people and older people can experience higher rates of FDSV than people of other ages and are additionally affected by particular forms of FDSV. Studies have shown that those with disability are at an even greater risk than those without:

  • Twice as many people aged 65 years or over who self-identified as having disability or long-term health conditions (21%) experienced any form of elder abuse in the previous 12 months in 2020 compared with those without disability or long-term health condition (9.8%) (Qu et al. 2021).
  • About twice as many adults with disability in 2016 had experienced sexual abuse by any perpetrator (12%) or physical and/or sexual abuse by a parent/step-parent (10%) before the age of 15 compared with those without disability (5.8% and 5.4%, respectively) (AIHW 2022a).

The second wave of the Australian Child Maltreatment Study aims to collect representative data for people with disability in Australia to allow estimates of child maltreatment to be reported for this group. The second wave should run from 2024 to 2025 (DPMC 2021).

Children who are considered unable to live safely with their families may be placed in out-of-home care. Children, and in particular children with disability, can be at risk of abuse in care (RCIRCSA 2017b). While there is limited data related to children with disability available, children with disability are thought to be significantly over-represented in out-of-home care. Disability status was only recorded for 71% (32,300) of children in out-of-home care in 2021–22. Among these children, 29% (9,300) were recorded as having disability (AIHW 2023). For a discussion of child protection data related to the general population, see Child protection.

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