At the European Parliament: Domestic violence against people with disability
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.
Embla and Freyja were giving their testimonies on behalf ofÂ 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 andÂ 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 articleÂ ‘Cuts mean government âis complicit in high levels of domestic violenceâ on their appearance.
Ana PelĂĄez, the Chair of the European Disability Forum (EDF) Womenâs 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 donât 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 donât 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 PelĂĄez EPÂ (Word doc) speech in full that she kindly send us.
It was wonderful to meet Madelen LĂ¶w from We Rise Again (Sweden) who spoke her powerful testimony
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 Councilâs 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.
At UN #CSW60
Two Sisters of Frida were at New York city for the ~UN Â 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 GirlsÂ This side event was sponsored byÂ Women Enabled International, Sisters of Frida & Women with Disabilities India Network
Commission on the Status of Women â 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 â 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 Â 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 Â face in realizing their rights as they relate to these goals & will address how SDG indicators can better reflect the realities of disabled women Â moving forward.
Location: Church Center of the United Nations â Chapel, 770 United Nations Plaza New York, NY
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 countryâs 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 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 peopleâs 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 (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 womenâs 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 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 Womenâs 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 Internationalâs work.
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 thanÂ non-disabled people
âą Disabled women 2 to 5 times are more likely to experience sexual violenceÂ than non-disabled women
âą 50% of disabled women have experienced violence in their lives, 33% of non-Â disabled women
âą Disabled children are 3 times as likely to be sexually abused than non-disabledÂ children (most likely for disabled girls)
âą Worldwide, 70% of women with learning difficulties report being victims ofÂ sexual assault (20% of women without earning difficulties) (UN). SanctionÂ detection rates are very low.
âą Disabled men are more likely than non-disabled men to be victims of domesticÂ violence
âą Hate crime and harassment, and institutional abuse are a common life
She also pointed out that there are many barriers
- Disbelief â âhow can anyone to that to her? she is so vulnerable, Her family want whatâs best for herâ
- Â A âvulnerable adultsâ/adults at risk framework that does notÂ protect disabled victims
- Inaccessible information and communication
- Limited access to support services e.g. short term IDVA orÂ counselling support, no 24 hour support in refuges, wheelchairÂ access, BSL access, âdonât meet the criteriaâ
- Housing, social care, access to mental health support etc
- Discrimination in the criminal justice system
To support disabled women survivors of domestic violence, Â 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 disabledÂ women
- Collaborate with disabled peopleâs organisations, including disabled womenâs 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 Â 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 toÂ 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 Osborneâs 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 governmentâs 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 Osborneâs âtampon taxâ proposals as a âsticking plaster on a haemorrhageâ.
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 âThey cut, we bleedâ 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 Osborneâs 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 âtwo women a week murderedâ and âthey cut, we bleedâ. The march was timed in response to the governmentâs 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. Â 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 FlickrÂ
Austerity puts disabled women at greater risk of domestic violence
This is first posted on theÂ Â Sisters Uncut Â 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 usingâ theirâ impairments âto apply the form of ââabuse
Austerity has robbed disabled women of independâent livingâ in a number of ways.Â The closure of the independent living fund, the introduction of ESA and the inappropriate work capability assessment, the change to PIP andâ 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 âhave 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 âwâomen 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 onâ possiblyâ 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 violenceâ aidâ 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 âsupportâ and funding, disabled women lose theirâ âindependentt livingâ, their social circles, âcivil rights, choice and control. Isolation, dependence and vulnerability are âexacerbatedâ by austerity.
Austerity sets up the conditions where disabled women are âmore than â2-3 timeâs 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.
This research is investigating violence against disabled women and their access to specialised womenâs support services. Funded through the European Commissionâs Daphne III programme and with international leadership from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, the project is running from 2013 to 2015 in four countries:
- Austria, (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute)
- Germany (University of Giessen)
- Iceland (University of Iceland)
- United Kingdom (University of Leeds and University of Glasgow)
About the research
There are several elements, which include:
- Assessment of Â the legal and policy framework
- 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
- Development of good practice examples and recommendations. Â
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. âHateâ 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 womenâs 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 â free life. At a micro, individual level,Â Â 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.
UK Reports and Working Papers
International Project Findings and Publications The main project website is maintained by Â 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.
Lucia Bellini’s speech for Million Women Rise 2015 at Trafalgar Square
Sisters of Frida Steering group member, Lucia, spoke for disabled women against domestic violence and violence against women at Million Women Rise at Trafalgar Square. Lucia works to tackle violence and abuse against disabled and Deaf people.
Joining the Sisters Uncut Valentine Day’s Revolt – Saturday 14th February
Two Sisters of Frida joined the Sisters Uncut Valentine Day’s Revolt direct action in London on Saturday which started from Green Park Station.
We marched to Picadilly in the rain where some laid flowers in memory of women who died as a result of domestic violence. ( We were not able to go up the steps to do it.) We also kept a minute silence. The manifesto was also read out
Sisters Uncut Feministo
We are Sisters Uncut. We stand united with all self-defining women who live under the threat of domestic violence, and those who experience violence in their daily lives. We stand against the life-threatening cuts to domestic violence services.We stand against austerity.
In the UK, two women a week on average are killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. The cuts make it harder for women to leave dangerous relationships and live safely. Safety is not a privilege. Access to justice cannot become a luxury. Austerity cuts are ideological but cuts to domestic violence services are fatal.
Every womanâs experience is specific to her; as intersectional feminists we understand that a womanâs individual experience of violence is affected by race, class, disability, sexuality and immigration status.
Doors are being slammed on women fleeing violence. Refuges are being shut down, legal aid has been cut, social housing is scarce and private rents are extortionate.
Whatâs more, local councils are selling out contracts to services who are running them on a shoestring â putting the safety of survivors at risk and deteriorating the working conditions for those who work with abused women.
To those in power, our message is this: your cuts are sexist, your cuts are dangerous, and you think that you can get away with them because you have targeted the people who you perceive as powerless.
We are those people, we are women, and we will not be silenced. We stand united and fight together, and together we will win.
- No more cuts to domestic violence services
- Restore funding that has been cut
- Secure funding for specialist domestic violence services; this should be ring-fenced* at a national level.
- Local Authorities to fully meet the demands of their communities, recognising that different women have different needs.
- Guaranteed access to legal aid for women experiencing domestic violence.
- Provide access to safe and secure social housing for women who otherwise cannot afford to flee.
- Panic rooms should not be classified as a spare room under the Bedroom Tax.
- Safety should not be subject to immigration status; extend access to safe housing to women with no recourse to public funds.
We took off from there to Oxford Circus where we formed a circle and stopped the traffic, blocking buses and taxis on a very busy junction and women were chanting and shouting for sisters who died from domestic violence.
It was good to be there. We hope to be able to join them at their meetings and invite them to our events and campaigns in the future.
Domestic Violence Murder March #deadwomenwalking Sunday 23 November London
Some Sisters of Frida will be joining this – please write to email@example.com if you re interested in joining
Date: Sunday 23rd November 2014
Time: Meet at 1.30pm for distribution of ponchos & safety info Please allow plenty of time for getting ‘lost’ and finding us so we can set off on time
Short speech at 2pm to start the walk
Meeting Place: Grosvenor Square Garden, Grosvenor Square, London
Travel:nearest tube is Bond Street (7 minute walk) or Marble Arch (10 min walk)
This is a remembrance walk and we will be walking to represent the number of women killed in one year in the UK. I will have a Red Rain Poncho for each woman representing a murdered woman and a candle bearing a name – The candles will have their wicks cut off to comply with Health & Safety rules and will remain UNLIT at all times.
The Ponchos are one-size so you will be able to dress according to the weather – If you could wear black from the waist down that would help to get the visual look I am hoping to achieve – a line of red and black.Â If you have a red coat do wear it! The walk is 1.6 miles and we will be walking in silence at a slow pace to arrive at Downing Street for approximately 3pm. Please do not bring whistles etc.. Sadly they won’t let us all in! Six people will deliver a list of names to 10 Downing Street and that will be the end of the march. We should be finished by 3.30 – 4pm at the latest.
from Claire Moore of Certain Curtain Theatre (Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Domestic-Violence-Murder-March-deadwomenwalking/731260833562881?fref=ts)