What About Us? : Violence Against Women with Disabilities

by Staci Forrest

Editor’s note: Trigger warnings for abuse, images of physical abuse, gender-based violence.

Scroll down for detailed video description for the visually impaired.

Why we posted this

This video was made by Women with Disabilities Victoria (Australia).

I found this video a while ago while browsing around YouTube. This is the only video I’ve seen to date that, in my opinion, provides a complete overview of violence against women with disabilities. This video is right; an overwhelming majority of women with and without disabilities experience some type of violence (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, economic). However, as demonstrated in the video, the rate of violence against women with disabilities is significantly higher.

I was verbally abused myself. My disability was used as fuel in the situation. I was told by my abuser that the disability I was recently diagnosed with around that time was not real and that I was ‘faking it.’ I was told this over and over again for about a year. While I know that my disability does exist, there is still a little voice in the back of my head that tells me I’m wrong, that I am just ‘faking it.’ When seeking help in regards to abuse, I found there to be a great number of barriers in accessibility. If people with disabilities cannot access services how are we to prevent violence? In many ways, it seems as though programs for both men and women in abusive situations have forgotten about us. They have forgotten that we exist. They have forgotten that violence happens to us and we do not deserve such treatment.  So, I ask what about us?

* * *

Video Description:

Music starts playing, screen fades into a blue background with light white pattern. Text appears. Text reads:’ Violence Against Women with Disabilities.’

Screen caption of a news story comes up on the screen. Headline reads: ‘Disabled Women vulnerable to abuse: govt.’

Fades into second screen caption of a news story. Headline reads: ‘Intellectually disabled women allegedly raped by carer.’

Fades into third screen caption of a news story. Headline reads:’ Disabled assaults a ‘hidden shame.”

Fades into fourth screen caption of a news story. Headline reads: ‘Abuse of women rife in psychiatric wards. ‘

Fades into fifth screen caption of a news story. Headline reads:’ Blind Woman Marie Martin bashed and robbed for $50.’ Image is below headline. Image pictures a woman with severe bruises around her eyes. Her expression is serious. She is pictured with her dog.

Screen fades to black. White Text appears. Text reads: ‘Gender based violence is experienced by women with disabilities at a rate of up to two times that of women without disabilities. ‘

Music stops playing. Screen fades to black. Image of woman comes up on screen. We learn that her name is Tricia Malowney she is the Chair of Women with Disabilities Victoria. She states: ‘Violence against women with disabilities takes a number of forms. So as while as the other things that affect other women there’s also those components of violence that only apply to women with disabilities so being under medicated and over medicated, having your aides and equipment removed so that you can’t be mobile. There’s the psychological abuse of telling women they’re no good because they have a disability.’

Music starts playing again. Text appears. Text reads: ‘Perpetrators are often known to women. They may be intimate partners or family members; They may be carers, residents, drivers or other providers of assistance. ‘

Screen fades to black. A woman appears we learn that her name is Ariane Garner-Williams. She is a youth and women with disabilities advocate. She states: ‘I befriended one of my taxi drivers and then he’s like “oh, I’ll take you to the gym.” and it’s like that sounded a bit out of the ordinary for a taxi
driver to want to be taking one of his clients that happens to be a teenage female to the gym well it just sounded a bit if-y.’

Screen fades to black. Text appears. Text reads: ‘High rates of violence co-exist with low rates of reporting to the police.’

Ariane Garner-Williams appears again. She states: ‘Some women I guess are just scared of the repercussions of what could possibly happen. You might go to the police and that person gets put in jail then I’ll have no one to look after me and I’ll be in the big, wide world by myself and that’s gonna be
hard so I’m better off staying quiet and putting up with it.’

Screen fades to black. Text appears. Text reads: ‘When disclosure does occur, adequate responses are often lacking and women are often not believed. ‘

Screen fades to black. Tricia Malowney, Chair of Women with Disabilities Victoria appears. She states: ‘The unbelieveability comes into play again because well, ‘he wouldn’t abuse you because he’d be a good [guy] surely, must be a good [guy] to stay with you.’ If it’s the carer for example who is the
abuser or the perpetrator of violence against you because our society sees them are martyr’s and heroes for being good enough to take care of a woman with a disability they are often not believed. ‘

Screen fades. Text appears. Text reads: ‘Up to 87% of women with intellectual disabilities will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. ‘

Screen fades. Tricia Malowney appears again. She states: ‘We need to have complaint processes that are accessible to women with disabilities; that support them, that makes sure that they are believed when they report crime. Nobody wants to get involved in the justice system unnecessarily. If we need changed to the laws around rules of evidence, then change it!’

Screen fades. Text appears. Text reads: “Services that respond to violence against women need to be able to respond to every women- including women with disabilities.”

Screen fades: Tricia Malowney appears again. She states: “So if organizations are funded to provide services for women, that means all women not just the ones that are easy to provide services to. In the same way that we accommodate whole communities by providing access to information in languages other than English. let’s provide access to information languages that can be accessible to women with disabilities. So every police station should have a communication table which could be a laminated sheet that had ‘I’ve been robbed,’ ‘I’ve been raped,’ ‘I need help,’ ‘Use my phone and ring whoever,’ really show really short, easy stuff that’s not complicated.”

Screen fades. Text appears. Text reads: “A survey by the Victorian Women and Mental Health Network has revealed that 61% of women experienced some form of abuse in psychiatric wards, including assessment sexual assault and rape. ‘

Screen fades into screen caption of a news story. Headline reads: ‘Women in mental wards face grave risks of abuse. ‘

Screen fades into second screen caption of a news story. Headline reads: ‘Women assaulted in mental health wards. ‘

Screen fades. Ariane Garner-Williams appears again. She states: ‘I think we do have a lot of rights as women with disabilities, but they’re not as acknowledged or don’t seem as important to people.’

Screen fades. Text appears. Text reads: ‘Women with disabilities make up 20.1 per cent of women in Victoria.”

Screen fades. Ariane Garner-Williams appears again holding a sign. The sign says: ‘We are friends & sisters.’

Screen fades. Another woman appears and looks to be writing on a piece of paper. She holds up the paper. It reads: ‘We are mothers & grandmothers.’ Another woman appears and put s her arm around the woman holding the sign.

Screen fades. Tricia Malowney appears again holding a sign. The sign reads: ‘We are every woman.’

Screen images tightens on the words on the sign the screen fades.

Text appears on the screen detailing the contact information for Women with Disabilities Victoria. Credits roll.


1 thought on “What About Us? : Violence Against Women with Disabilities

  1. I am sickened at the thought of ANYONE, male or female, facing indifference or disbelief from the poice or authorities. Especially after the horror and trauma of abuse or assault. I thought we had gotten past the stereptypes of family and caregivers — ANY caregiver (ie: inc health & teaching) — being incapable of abuse If there was ever a time that I wanted to literally smash my head on my desk, this is it.

    In all seriousness, I think it’s time to take a page from the women’s right’s movement and go proactive for “PWD RIghts, RIght Now”.


    btw, I shared this on Facebook (and will on Livejournal & Dreamwidth) with the following message. If anyone wishes to copy and paste it, please do so with my blessings.

    I think you will be as shocked as I was. Several of my online friends are PWDs (people with disabilities), and I subscribe to a couple of their blogs. The police are treating victims with PWD in the same way they used to treat female victims of abuse. In the 1980s. I supported, petitioned, and wrote letters in the fight to get rape, assault, and domestic abuse treated as any other crime. Back then (and in some countries, STILL) wives couldn’t be raped by their husbands, domestic abuse was a “private not a police” matter, and women had to pay for their rape kits and for blood tests for STDs (which often weren’t covered by insurance). If you are as apalled by these stories as I am, SPEAK UP. Pass this along, not just on FB, print it out. Post it on your office, church, and library billboard. Mail it to your police chief, city council, and state and federal member of congress.”

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