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Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us

The UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published its concluding observations following its first review of the UK government’s compliance with the Convention. We contributed to the report and went to Geneva, as volunteers, to ensure that violations of disabled women’s rights were given attention. The Committee highlighted many areas of concerns which explicitly or indirectly affect disabled women, but we’ve highlighted three key themes below.

 

1) Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us

 

We share the Committee’s concern that disabled women and girls’ rights “have not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agenda” and support its specific recommendation to “adopt inclusive and targeted measures, including disaggregated data” to prevent the multiple and intersectional discrimination we face.

 

Mainstreaming our rights, requires our involvement. We therefore also welcome the Committee’s recommendation to allocate “financial resources to support organisations representing [disabled women]” and develop mechanisms to ensure our involvement in planning and implementing law which affects our lives. For example, we were not consulted on the drafting of the coercive abuse offence in the Serious Crime Act. If we had, we would have been able to show how the ‘best interests’ defence for carers dangerously undermines the rights and safety of disabled women and people with learning disabilities.

 

Strategies need to be measured, financed and monitored. We therefore welcome the Committee’s recommendation for mechanisms to support our involvement in the design of strategies to implement the Convention through “measurable, financed and monitored strategic plans of action”. Measurability requires the collection of disaggregated data and this has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.

 

2) Multiple and Intersectional Discrimination

 

Disabled women experience sexism and dis/ableism in our everyday lives, along with many other forms of oppression (eg. based on age, sexual orientation, economic status and migrant status). Here’s an example to illustrate. A visually impaired woman cannot access information on an NHS website due to inaccessibility. This is disability discrimination, but is gender-neutral. However, lack of access to family planning services is clearly gender and disability discrimination. If she is actually a teenage girl living in a remote indigenous community, clearly intersections of multiple aspects of her identity operate to exacerbate the disadvantages she faces.

 

This is why the Convention specifically addresses the rights of disabled women in Article 6. It requires the Government to recognize that disabled women and girls face multiple discrimination. It’s therefore crucial that the Government implement the Committee’s recommendation to explicitly incorporate protection from “multiple and intersectional discrimination” in national legislation. Whether it’s routine GP appointments, cervical testing or maternity care, disabled women constantly struggle to access medical services, so we strongly support the Committee’s recommendation to develop “targeted measurable and financed” strategies to eliminate barriers in access to health care and services and to measure their progress.”

 

3) Access to Justice

Our rights are worthless if they are unenforceable or ignored. The barriers with the justice system are procedural, financial and accessibility-related and stop us from bringing claims to enforce our civil rights, count against us in proceedings (eg divorce and family matters) and prevent us from reporting criminal abuse against us.

 

We therefore strongly support the Committee’s recommendations:

  • to develop training for the judiciary and law enforcement personnel. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has already noted concerns about “women being deemed unfit mothers for having ‘failed to protect’ their children from an abusive parent”. Ignorant, counterproductive and damaging comments and actions by judges and police must end.
  • to provide “free or affordable legal aid” for disabled people in all areas of law. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has specifically noted concern about the evidential requirements to apply for legal aid and the consequences for family law problems.

 

The many other areas of concern noted by the Committee can be read here

 

Next Steps

 

We were disappointed by the lack of media attention given to the 17-page catalogue of shame but the disabled community, including the DPOs, continue to valiantly highlight the UN’s findings.

 

Whilst we welcome the Committee’s recommendation for the UK Government to produce annual reports on its progress, we fear it will be another exercise of denial and lack data, evidence or understanding of intersectional discrimination.

 

We, Sisters of Frida, are preparing for CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and working with other women’s organisations on this. In the meantime, we are joining the ENIL Freedom March in Brussels and will raise it with our MEPs as to how they will be responding to protecting disabled women on VAWG as the Istanbul Convention is being ratified by the UK government.

 

Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO of the Women Resource Centre says:

“The last time Sisters of Frida went with the UK CEDAW Working Group to Geneva, we noted in our oral statement that women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK are facing threats to their rights but this does not have to be the case if government policies are created in partnership with women’s NGOs and include a gendered perspective. This will ensure that there is not a long-term legacy of discrimination against women, and will also impact on the future economy.

 

In 2017, Sisters of Frida note that disabled women are acknowledged as still facing the same level of discrimination in the UNCRPD Concluding Observations. We call upon the UK government to honour its commitment to women’s rights and work with us to establish a clear and inclusive mechanism in order to bring women’s voices into the heart of government.”

 

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Co-Director of the Women’s Budget Group said:

 

‘We know that disabled women have been hit particularly badly by austerity policies over the last seven years. Disabled women have lost income through cuts to both specific disability benefits but also to housing benefit, tax credits and benefits for children. Cuts to public services including social care, health, education and transport budgets have all disproportionately affected disabled women.

The Public Sector Equality Duty, contained in the 2010 Equality Act, places a positive obligation on all public authorities to have due regard to the impact of their policies and practices on equality. Despite this the government have failed to publish meaningful assessments of the cumulative impact of austerity on equality.

We call on the government to meet both their obligations under both domestic and international law to ensure that their policies meet the needs of disabled women’

 

Sarah Green, Co-Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition said:

 

“It is known that disabled women are disproportionately subjected to sexual and domestic violence by perpetrators of these crimes, and that disabled women face additional barriers to escaping and staying safe, and even in being believed.

 

“International human rights treaties require our Government to ensure that disabled women’s needs are specifically considered and addressed when implementing policy on policing and preventing violence. Following the UN CRDP inquiry into the UK’s performance in this area, we need to hear assurances from the UK Government that disabled women’s needs are known and are made part of policy and practice in relation to ending and preventing abuse.”

 

Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters said:

 

‘Leave no woman behind’ is an important development and human rights goal that is central to achieving gender equality and one to which the UK government claims to be committed. But in the UK this goal remains largely rhetorical as the most vulnerable women – those with disabilities and multiple needs – are rendered marginalised and invisible by increasingly harsh economic and social welfare measures. Disabled women’s needs and rights are being gravely and systematically violated by the UK government. Why else do we see such an appalling lack of access to emergency shelters, secure housing and welfare rights, education, work, health and counselling facilities for disabled women who are also fleeing domestic violence? If the UK wants to be recognised as a leader in disability and human rights, it must develop laws, policies and strategies that enhance the rights of all women. This means understanding and addressing the overlapping and intersecting forms of discrimination such as race, gender and disability that create additional vulnerabilities and barriers for women. Sadly this government is unlikely to turn its rhetoric on achieving a ‘fairer’ society into reality but we are ready to stand with our disabled sisters to shame the government into action.

 

Lee Eggleston on behalf of Rape Crisis England and Wales said:

 

‘Disabled women who have experienced sexual violence make up a quarter of Rape Crisis service users – which is an indication of how disproportionately disabled women are impacted by sexual violence, often by their own carers. The voice and engagement of specialist organisations run by and for disabled women, like Sisters of Frida and Stay Safe East, is essential to the CEDAW process in raising awareness of sexual violence to the Committee.’

 

Zarin Hainsworth OBE, Chair,  National Alliance of Women’s Organisations

 

Disabled women  face multiple disadvantage in being able to participate as fully as they wish in all aspects of their lives – social, as well as political and economic .  The CEDAW Committee made recommendations in their concluding observations to their last report that would improve the capacity of women in the UK to access health care and justice but little has been achieved and austerity policies combined with a lack of specific attention to the issues faced by disabled women, make these more not less distant goals.  Indeed, disabled women – especially those with learning disabilities who are also likely to experience mental ill-health – continue to face the loss of their babies at birth.

We strongly support NAWO members, Sisters of Frida, in their campaign for focused attention by the UK Government on the needs and concerns of disabled women and girls.’

 

 

We would be happy to hear from others, individuals and/or organisations, who would like to join us in our campaign for disabled women’s rights in issues mentioned here. Please comment below or write to hello@sisofrida.org, tweet @sisofrida

 

Note: Stay Safe East is a unique user-led organisation run by disabled people, providing specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled people from diverse communities in East London (currently Waltham Forest and Newham) who are victims/survivors of domestic or sexual violence, hate crime, harassment and other forms of abuse.

 

Other resources

Sexuality and Dis/ability

 

READING LIST: intersectional disability & disabled women

 

More articles/blogs/podcasts

 

Daley, Michelle

Intersectionality and its relevance in social care for Disabled Women

Rise Up Against The Harm And Killing Of Disabled Women Through Myths (Huffington Post)

Parker, Lani

Sideways Times is a UK-based platform for conversations which in different ways link together struggles against ableism, white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy.

Exciting new project on skills development for Sisters of Frida!

about eleven/twelve women looking/listening intently. some are wheelchair users.

Participants at a previous Sisters of Frida event

New peer led skills development course for disabled women

(Start date  and venue TBD probably September now.)

Sisters of Frida is proud to announce a new peer led skills development course for disabled women.

Following our successful projects ‘Disabled women’s voices from the frontline‘ and Disability and Sexuality, Rosa funding is funding us to further develop disabled women’s skills and leadership in a space led by and for disabled women. This exciting project will span 12 months and will give the participants opportunities to

  • develop facilitation skills
  • presentation skills
  • and research skills
  • identifying your own specific skills

The project will be split into two parts. The first part will consist of three sessions aimed at building facilitation skills and confidence for the participants we will then go on to design a further seven sessions tailored specifically to the needs of the group and individuals within the group. You will have a mentor who will support you in gaining skills in the area of work which you are interested in you will then share the skills and knowledge through a facilitated workshop designed and facilitated by you.

 

Ideas for topics include

  • disabled women and domestic violence
  • sexuality and disabled women
  • building campaigns and spaces wich work for all disabled women
  • working with disabled young people
  • arts and self-expression
  • re thinking work for/with disabled women
  • building support networks in challenging interpersonal violence

The list is not exhaustive and will be led by the participants. There are limited spaces on this program, please get in touch if you are interested to hello@sisofrida.org

rosa fund logo

At the European Parliament: Domestic violence against people with disability

 

2 semi circles of seated people facing each other with one woman in a bed chair lying down and man with hat at this end and interpreters signing in space between the semi circles

Photo of meeting from European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup. http://www.ardi-ep.eu 

Sisters of Frida was asked to speak at an event hosted by Soraya Post MEP on Domestic violence against disabled people by the European Network of Independent Living (ENIL) on the 31st January 2017. Here is the speech from Eleanor Lisney ( a summarised version was given as the meeting ran out of time)

Having support for independent living is one of the fundamental needs of disabled people and the structural barriers of being able to exercise our rights is in our battles with social services, schools, higher education, housing, stigmas and discrimination and ableism.
four women around a table, 2 wheelchair users, one with Middle Eastern, one with East Asian looks, the other Caucasian with one in a bed chair lying down position.

with Nadia (ENIL), Eleanor (SOF), Freyja and Embla (TabĂș)

It seems right that we should meet with ENIL member before the event  – Nadia Haddad and TabĂș ‘s Embla ÁgĂșstsdĂłttir and Freyja HaraldsdĂłttir for drinks to talk before the event.

Embla and Freyja were giving their testimonies on behalf of  the next day on domestic violence against disabled people. Here is their speech for TabĂș.

It is clear that a new definition of domestic violence in itself will not solve the social situation of disabled women and end domestic violence against us. That does not change the fact that by redefining domestic violence legally and in policy can change, for the better, the practices of the police, legal system, social services and violence support networks. Changing the definition does not have to shadow the gender-based approach, it should enrich it. This should not have to exclude tackling of other forms of violence, e.g. institutional violence and hate crime. More so it could draw upon the multiple and concurrent forms of violence that should be beneficial to disabled women and service systems. It could deepen the understanding of which kind of violence affects or actuate other kinds of violence as well as offering a better ground to analyse how structures and cultures encourage and minimize abuse in the lives of disabled women.”

 

We also met up with all four of the Disabled Survivors Unite co-founders from the UK – Alice Kirkby, Ashley Stephens, Holly Scott-Gardner and  Bekki Smiddy. Here is their blog of the day with a audio recording and transcript. There was much appreciation of their testimonies.

John Pring of Disability News Service wrote the article  ‘Cuts mean government ‘is complicit in high levels of domestic violence’ on their appearance.

Ana Peláez, the Chair of the European Disability Forum (EDF) Women’s Committee and a member of its Executive Committee spoke on the structual problems faced by disabled women and girls

So the first thing we need to say is that violence against women and girls with disabilities is structural violence that arises from the mere fact that when we talk about their specific situation they are not recognised as women or girls. This non-recognition means they are excluded from policies aimed at providing assistance and recovery for women victims of violence. (Another related topic is the accessibility of these services, but today we don’t have time to go into this.)

A second structural aspect of violence against women and girls with disabilities is that in many cases they are victims of legal incapacitation which takes place due to their gender. This incapacitation is part of the process to enable these women to be subjected to forced sterilisation without their consent, or without their realising what is being done to them. This practise is another type of domestic violence in some ways, because it is the families who, in violation of the CRPD and even article 39 of the Istanbul Convention, choose to sterilise their daughters to protect them against unwanted pregnancies. I don’t mean to blame the families; they are also victims of the healthcare system, which very often suggests this type of practise. Sterilising a woman means mutilating not only her reproductive capacity, but also her civil, political and economic rights. In addition, the only thing sterilisation achieves is to leave girls and women with disabilities even more exposed to sexual abuse and rape. Even worse, they are also unable to access justice to report the perpetrators or seek remedies, because they have been deprived of their legal capacity.

Here is the Ana Pelåez EP  (Word doc) speech in full that she kindly send us.

 

It was wonderful to meet Madelen Löw from We Rise Again (Sweden) who spoke her powerful testimony

two women, one speaking, the other woman is listening

Madelen Löw with Judith Ward UK MEP

People who were involved with the event spoke of their willingness to have further collaboration on the topic – we hope so! We will continue to follow the discussions. There was much mention of the Istanbul Convention that we hope will be ratified soon by the UK.

More photos from the event at Flickr account

Submission to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Sisters of Frida with the Women Enabled International provided evidence to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights of the United Kingdom. We focused on disabled women and specifically on violence against disabled women and domestic abuse.

You can find the report at UPR submission PDF and UPR Submission .doc

At UN #CSW60

Two Sisters of Frida were at New York city for the ~UN  Committee for Status of Women #CSW60 – here are some of the sessions we took part there.

At Sustainable Development Goals or Sidelining Disabled Girls? Making SDGs Stand for All Women and Girls This side event was sponsored by Women Enabled International, Sisters of Frida & Women with Disabilities India Network

Commission on the Status of Women – CSW60 Side Event
Title: Sustainable Development Goals or Sidelining Disabled Girls? Making SDGs Stand for All Women and Girls
Date and Time: Thursday, March 17 2:30 PM
Location: Church Center of the United Nations – Boss Room, 770 United Nations Plaza New York, NY

The SDGs offer a valuable platform to advance dialogues with States around key areas that impact the lives of women & girls. Yet, despite accounting for almost one-fifth of all women worldwide, disabled women and girls receive scant attention. As the global community undertakes the crucial task of identifying indicators to monitor progress toward the realization of the SDGs & hold States accountable for these commitments, it is essential that this process includes the voices of disabled women  which reflects their experiences of intersecting forms of discrimination. This panel addresses four SDGs that bear on the rights of women with disabilities: Goal 1 (Poverty), Goal 3 (Health), Goal 5 (Gender Equality), & Goal 16 (Peace & Justice). Panelists will discuss barriers that disabled women  face in realizing their rights as they relate to these goals & will address how SDG indicators can better reflect the realities of disabled women  moving forward.

Eleanor Lisney (UK) – Goal 1 (Poverty) – impact on disabled women of government program cuts –

SDG goal 1. poverty transcript

At A Dialogue: Survivors in a disabling environment: what does empowerment of disabled women mean globally?

Date and Time: Thursday, March 24 12:30 PM
Location: Church Center of the United Nations – Chapel, 770 United Nations Plaza New York, NY
This panel will be discussing what would empowerment of disabled women mean locally, nationally and globally. We will try to include voices of disabled women (short video clips) from different parts of the world stating what it means to them.
Clip from Khairani Barokka (Indonesia)

Clip from Dr Huhanna Hickey (New Zealand)

 Clip from Jamie Bolling, European Network of Independent Living (ENIL)

We will use the Social Model of Disability; that is to say it is systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently), that disable us. We will also look at the different nuances of violence against disabled women, the different forms of abuse and how disabled women in particular are affected. How they survive inspite of having to face numerous challenges/barriers wherever they are in the world.
Speakers
Alexia Manombe-Ncube (Namibia)
Alexia is the Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs in the office of Vice President, Namibia. Recently appointed by President Hage Geingob to handle the affairs of physically challenged people, Manombe-Ncube has appealed to stakeholders to highlight the plight of the country’s disabled people in order for her to realise her ministerial declaration of intent. She also urged stakeholders to apply all their energy towards the empowerment and development of the disabled and specifically to close the gender equality gap.
She champions those in the rural areas saying disabled are have less resources and left to crawl because they do not have wheelchairs like people in the cities. Alexia will be speaking on the status of disabled in Naimbia and her own empowerment as a minister.

Lucia Bellini (UK)
Lucia currently works as an advocate for disabled people who are victims of domestic violence. She is also a Disability Rights Advocate where she assists people to access care packages, to be re-housed, to apply for benefits and to appeal against decisions they are not happy with. She has a masters in Global Citizenship, Identity and Human Rights from the University of Nottingham. In 2008 to 2010, she worked with disabled people’s organisations in Guyana where she provided disability equality and project management training to many disabled people throughout the country. She is particularly passionate about ensuring disabled women feel empowered and equipped to make their own choices. Lucia will be speaking about disabled women caught up in domestic violence in the UK.

Michelle Baharier (UK)
Michelle (UK) is a visual artist and disabled activist with lived experience of mental-distress for over three decades. She set up and ran a disabled lead arts organisation changing the way disabled people were perceived in the main stream.
She has worked with women’s organisations and on a telephone help line for women affected by violence, and with women from a variety of cultures including the Poppy Project which supports women who have been trafficked to the UK, the Diane project for Iranian women who need a safe place to be due to violence. Michelle will speak about her work with mental health survivors and their struggle for empowerment.

Suzannah Phillips (USA)
Suzannah is the Legal Advisor for Women Enabled International. Her work focuses on legal advocacy with the United Nations and other international and regional forums to strengthen human rights standards on the rights of women and girls with disabilities. Prior to joining WEI, Suzannah was the International Women’s Human Rights Clinical Fellow at CUNY School of Law, Legal Adviser for International Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and a Human Rights Fellow with VIVO POSITIVO in Santiago, Chile. She is currently a member of the International Human Rights Committee at the New York City Bar Association. Suzannah received her J.D. from Columbia Law School and her B.A. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University. Suzannah will be speaking on how different legal instruments can be used to support empowerment of disabled women especially with Women Enabled International’s work.

Questions/comments

 

Staysafe East on Providing Support to Underrepresented Groups and Communities Affected by Domestic Violence in London

There was a networking event organised by Safer London on 25th Nov – Providing Support to Underrepresented Groups and Communities Affected by Domestic Violence in London.

Ruth Bashall from Staysafe East gave a presentation on the work that they do. Sisters of Frida has many links with Staysafe Eastand supports the great work that they do.

Here are some of the notes from her presentation

Disabled people in general are 3 times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled people

‱ Disabled women 2 to 5 times are more likely to experience sexual violence than non-disabled women

‱ 50% of disabled women have experienced violence in their lives, 33% of non- disabled women

‱ Disabled children are 3 times as likely to be sexually abused than non-disabled children (most likely for disabled girls)

‱ Worldwide, 70% of women with learning difficulties report being victims of sexual assault (20% of women without earning difficulties) (UN). Sanction detection rates are very low.

‱ Disabled men are more likely than non-disabled men to be victims of domestic violence

‱ Hate crime and harassment, and institutional abuse are a common life

She also pointed out that there are many barriers

  • Disbelief – “how can anyone to that to her? she is so vulnerable, Her family want what’s best for her”
  •  A ‘vulnerable adults’/adults at risk framework that does not protect disabled victims
  • Inaccessible information and communication
  • Limited access to support services e.g. short term IDVA or counselling support, no 24 hour support in refuges, wheelchair access, BSL access, ‘don’t meet the criteria’
  • Housing, social care, access to mental health support etc
  • Discrimination in the criminal justice system

To support disabled women survivors of domestic violence,  she offers this advice

  • Be prepared and willing to support disabled and Deaf women
  • Provide disability equality training to staff and volunteers
  • Provide accessible support
  • Include disabled and deaf women amongst paid staff and volunteers
  • Ensure peer support is provided by disabled women to disabled women
  • Ensure accessible information is provided
  • Actively raise public awareness about violence against disabled women
  • Train other professionals about issues around violence against disabled women
  • Collaborate with disabled people’s organisations, including disabled women’s networks

Most importantly she uses the social model of disability approach, that is to say -not to focus primarily on impairments but the role of the environment and society in disability. She would also push for inclusive practice  so as to develop the peer support needed..

 

Other organisations represented there which gave presentations were Imkaan, Muslim Womens Network, Stonewall Housing, St Mungos Broadway

Feminists dye fountains red in anti-austerity protest

We joined Sisters Uncut for their Day of Mass Action Funeral March to protest the drastic, devastating cuts to domestic violence services. ‘We march in remembrance of all the services that have already been cut as a result of the government’s austerity measures, and all those we will lose if funding isn’t restored and ring-fenced.’

“Sisters Uncut held a funeral-themed protest in Soho Square at 12.00pm, to mourn domestic violence services that have had to close as a result of Osborne’s austerity measures. Members of the group wore funeral attire and black veils as they read out the names of all the women who have been killed as a result of domestic violence.

The protest was called in response to the government’s spending review, delivered this Wednesday. Further cuts to local council budgets were announced, which are set to prompt further closures of local domestic violence support services. In a statement released this week, the group describe Osborne’s “tampon tax” proposals as a “sticking plaster on a haemorrhage”.

After bringing traffic to a standstill on Charing Cross road, the march ended with a rally by the Trafalgar Square fountains, where hundreds of onlookers watched as the group shouted “They cut, we bleed” and listed their demands, including: no further cuts to domestic violence support services, and guaranteed funding for specialist support services that help black and minority ethnic (BME) women.

Since Osborne’s austerity measures in 2010, over 30 domestic violence support services have been forced to close. (1) The group are concerned that, as more services shut down, more women risk death at the hands of violent partners or ex-partners.

The event was attended by over 500 women, many of whom are domestic violence survivors and support workers. Their chants included “two women a week murdered” and “they cut, we bleed”. The march was timed in response to the government’s spending review on Wednesday 25th November, which coincided with the UN-sponsored International Day to End Violence Against Women.

Domestic violence support services are a lifeline for women fleeing domestic violence. Specialist services bear the brunt of these cuts, especially those that help black and minority ethnic (BME) women, LGBTQ+ people and disabled women.  Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence. “

We wrote a blog for them on disabled women and our experience of domestic violence. And decided that some of us would join them on the march at Soho Square – here are some of the photos.

 

 

 

More photos at the Sisters of Frida Flickr 

Austerity puts disabled women at greater risk of domestic violence

This is first posted on the  Sisters Uncut  blog.

Disabled women are 2-3 times more likely to experience domestic violence, but have greater barriers to accessing services. Often they are not believed or their experiences as disabled women are not understood. Perpetrators exploit disabled women by financially abusing them, isolating them from friends and family, withholding vital care or medication, and using​ their​ impairments ​to apply the form of ​​abuse

Austerity has robbed disabled women of independ​ent living​ in a number of ways. The closure of the independent living fund, the introduction of ESA and the inappropriate work capability assessment, the change to PIP and​ Motability (for adapted vehicles) as there is an arbitrary change to mobility eligibility.

This is a systematic erosion of disabled people’s rights. An erosion so grave the UN is investigating.

Women are told they ​have to use nappies inspite of not being incontinent. Never mind the indignity. Never mind the health risk from sores, a risk that is not needed. Children are removed from disabled mothers as social services deem them not to be capable of parenthood. Disabled ​w​omen wait in fear of the arbitrary sanctions from job centre and DWP letters informing them they no longer meet criteria for benefits.

This all feeds into vulnerability, isolation and dependency on​ possibly​ abusive partners.

The decimation of disabled people’s rights and independence, through the systematic removal of social security has had one particularly significant effect: disabled women are left at greater risk of domestic violence.

When it comes to state support for disabled women, social security is no ‘benefit’. In a world which denies disabled people access to education, employment, family life and public spaces this money is a small recognition of the barriers faced.

Disabled women experience a compound oppression. As at the same time their risk of violence increases, funding to domestic violence​ aid​ services is falling. This is despite an evidence need for MORE funding to ensure they are accessible and responsive to all disabled women . We need more specialist services and accessible helplines and information.

Without this ​support​ and funding, disabled women lose their​ ​independentt living​, their social circles, ​civil rights, choice and control. Isolation, dependence and vulnerability are ​exacerbated​ by austerity.

Austerity sets up the conditions where disabled women are ​more than ​2-3 time​s likely to experience domestic violence.

 

 

Violence Against Disabled Women – an European report

While we were at the Screening AccSex event at Leeds University, Sarah Woodin presented the findings of their report Access to Specialised Victim Support Services for Women with Disabilities who have experienced Violence which included guidance from Ruth Bashall and Susie Balderston.

brochure-cover

brochure-cover

This research is investigating violence against disabled women and their access to specialised women’s support services. Funded through the European Commission’s Daphne III programme and with international leadership from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, the project is running from 2013 to 2015 in four countries:

About the research

There are several elements, which include:

  1. Assessment of  the legal and policy framework
  2. Generation of extensive new data from disabled or Deaf women (through focus group discussions, in-depth-interviews) and service providers (online-survey, interviews with staff members), and
  3. Development of good practice examples and recommendations.  

187 disabled women from the four countries took part (106 women in focus groups and 81 women in individual interviews). They included women with mobility or sensory impairments, women with intellectual impairments, women with mental health conditions and women with multiple impairments. Specialised service providers assisting women who have experienced violence also took part in this study (there were in total 602 responses to an online survey and 54 individual interviews with representatives from services). However, the numbers are only provided here as an indication of the scale of the research. The focus was on exploring barriers and issues in depth rather than on recruiting statistically representative samples.

The Problem of Violence against Disabled Women

Disabled women experience a very wide range of types of violence. They report the same types of violence as non-disabled women, but also abuse that is specific to disabled people, and that takes place in a wider range of places and is enacted by more kinds of perpetrators. Domestic violence is substantial and highly damaging for disabled women, but violence also encompasses institutional violence from carers, where women live in residential homes or from assistants where they receive help to live in their own homes. ‘Hate’ violence and crime was also described, where women are abused on the basis of who they are seen to be. Violence is often directed towards perceived areas of weakness, such as attacks that focus on women’s impairments, often arising or increasing at the onset of impairment and at times when women need more help, such as during pregnancy and childbirth or if their residency status is uncertain. Although violence is most prevalent for young adult women, participants report experiencing violence at all stages of the life course and sometimes in many different settings.

Support to Counter Violence

A formidable array of barriers are identified by disabled women in relation to securing assistance and achieving a violence – free life. At a micro, individual level,   the active isolation of women by perpetrators, combined with the inaccessibility of services and a lack of knowledge and capacity to help, all result in keeping disabled women away from support services. Macro level systemic barriers include the ways that funding and administrative regimes combine to make movement away from repeat violence situations very difficult. The project is highlighting the dynamics of this pressing social problem and setting out the steps that need to be taken to prevent and address this abuse. Examples of good practice and innovation in each of the countries are also being documented.

Project Publications

UK Reports and Working Papers

Working Papers:

Brochures

International Project Findings and Publications The main project website is maintained by  the international project co-ordinator, the Ludwig Bolzmann Institute, Austria

The site has reports and other publications from all four counties, in a range of accessible formats.