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Our pioneering research project, Voices Against Violence, was launched on the 15th of May by Natasha Stott Despoja AM, Ambassador for Women and Girls and Chair, Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children.
“The Voices against Violence research highlights that when sex discrimination is coupled with disability discrimination, women with disabilities are at an incredibly elevated risk of violence. However, this research also holds the promise of what might be done to stop this violence from happening in the first place - otherwise known as primary prevention of violence against women." Ms. Stott Despoja
Over 200 people from peak family violence, sexual assault, disability, mental health, aged care, legal and government organisations gathered at Hotel Ibis, Melbourne, for the launch.
Voices Against Violence is two-year research project undertaken by Women with Disabilities Victoria, in partnership with the Office of the Public Advocate and the Domestic Violence Resources Centre Victoria. The findings are published in seven reports.
These are women’s stories, real stories from real women. They reveal the depth of our failure as a society to provide a safe environment for women with a disability, and when that fails, to provide a just and supportive response so that women are again safe.
The project reports on the extent and nature of violence against women with disabilities in Victoria. As well as interviews with women with disabilities about their experiences of violence, it includes an overview of current issues, a review of legislative protections, a review of the records of OPA and interviews with its staff and volunteers.
Virginia Geddes, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria’s Executive Director, said, “Recent public discussion about violence against women shows that the community expects governments to take action to protect women and children from violence. This research shows clearly what needs to be done. We call on the Premier Denis Napthine to show leadership in addressing the many barriers to justice and safety faced by women experiencing violence and in particular by women with disabilities."
The project has provided a rare and valued opportunity for Victorian women with disabilities to share their experiences of violence, to describe the support they received and to relate their experiences of the justice system. Importantly, women also provided recommendations for changes to the way the family violence service system supports women with disabilities.
At the launch a panel of speakers summarised the findings which are contained in the seven reports. The panel comprised:
Fiona Guthrie (Member, Women with Disabilities Victoria),
Lucy Healey (University of Melbourne),
Delanie Woodlock (Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria), and
Magdalena McGuire and John Chesterman (Office of the Public Advocate).
The Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, echoed the reports' findings and has called for an expansion of the powers of the Public Advocate to investigate allegations of violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect.
Ms Pearce said, "We get calls every week about abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation relating to people in their own homes or in nursing homes but we can't investigate them. Women with disabilities and mental illness are, arguably at even greater risk of violence in their own homes but we are very limited in what we can do."
Fiona McCormack (CEO, Domestic Violence Victoria) and Estelle Fyffe (Chair, National Disability Services Victoria) responded to the findings from the perspective of the Family Violence and Disability sectors, enforcing the importance of cross-sector collaboration to create change.
WDV's Executive Director Keran Howe closed the event by saying, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
The project was funded by Gandel Philanthropy and a research grant from the Legal Services Board Grants Program. We are grateful to these organisations for their generous support of the project.
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You can download an electonic version of the reports below:
This paper collates the information from the Voices Against Violence Research Project publications and sets out the recommendations arising from the research project.
This paper provides a conceptual starting point for the issues raised throughout the series of papers that make up the Voices Against Violence Research Project. Positioned within a human rights feminist approach, it reviews current knowledge about the nature and extent of violence against women with disabilities; the barriers to services faced by women with disabilities who have experienced violence; and outlines promising initiatives currently underway in Victoria that may help repair the harm and prevent the injustice of violence. In doing so, it examines the challenges in defining what we mean by violence against women with disabilities as opposed to violence against people with disabilities, men with disabilities, or women in general, and why this matters. It highlights the importance of examining disability-based violence and its interrelationship with gender-based violence
This paper reviews Victorian and Federal legislation and related literature. It also looks at the practical perspectives provided by stakeholders regarding the adequacy of legal protections and barriers to justice for women with disabilities in Victoria who have experienced violence, and presents a clear pathway for future practice, legislative amendment and research. Legislation reviewed includes the:
• Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)
• Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)
• Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (Vic)
• Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
• Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)
This paper is based on a review of OPA’s Advocate/Guardian program files. OPA’s Advocate/Guardian program provides guardianship, investigation and individual advocacy services to Victorians with cognitive impairments and/or mental illness. The aim of the file review was to ascertain how many women who are clients of OPA’s Advocate/Guardian program have reportedly experienced violence. In order to find this out, the project reviewed the first 100 Advocate/Guardian case files involving women that were allocated to OPA in the 2011–12 financial year.
This paper involved interviews with 25 staff and volunteers from OPA’s major program areas. The interviews explored participants’ experiences in working with women with cognitive impairments and/or mental illnesses who had experienced violence, or who were at risk of experiencing violence. The participants were asked to reflect on the circumstances of the women they had worked with at OPA. They were also asked to talk about the particular challenges for women with disabilities who have experienced violence, and what can be done to address violence and prevent it from reoccurring.
This paper involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 20 Victorian women with disabilities who have been subject to violence. The interviews explored women’s experiences of violence, how their disabilities impacted the violence they experienced, whom they went to for support, and their experiences with violence response services (such as police, family violence and sexual assault services). Women also talked about the changes they felt were required to better support women with disabilities who have experienced violence and their suggestions for preventing violence against women with disabilities.
This paper summarises the major findings and recommendations of the Voices Against Violence Research Project in Easy English. The paper uses everyday words, simple sentence structure, and pictorials in order to convey the important findings of the research.
These papers have been written by different authors over a period of time, reflecting different language and definitions. In this period, the complexity of dealing with violence in different contexts – which employ different understandings of disability and different understandings of violence – has become evident. Grappling with this complexity has been a valuable learning and the thinking of the project team has evolved through the life of the project. We have endeavoured to standardise the language across papers as far as possible.
Photos from the launch:
Below are a selection of images from our Voices Against Violence Launch, to view more please visit our Facebook Page.
All photos are copyright Jorge de Araujo and are to be acknowledged if reproduced.