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Chris Jennings at 'Sowing the seeds' Forum

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Presentation by Chris Jennings, Disability Project Worker from Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service. This presentation was delivered to DVRCV's 'Sowing the seeds of change' forum for and by women …

Presentation by Chris Jennings, Disability Project Worker from Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service. This presentation was delivered to DVRCV's 'Sowing the seeds of change' forum for and by women with disabilities.


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  • 1. Sowing the Seeds of Change 19th of June 2012 Jasper Hotel Melbourne Presenter: Chris Jennings Womens Domestic Violence Crisis Service
  • 2. What is family violence? Family and domestic violence is any violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour that occurs in current or past family, domestic or intimate relationships. This includes not only physical injury but direct or indirect threats, sexual assault, emotional and psychological torment, economic control, damage to property, social isolation and any behaviour which causes a person to live in fear. DHS website
  • 3. What is family violence? Family violence can affect anyone in the community – regardless of gender, age, location, socio-economic and health status, culture, sexual identity, ability, ethnicity or religion. While it can be perpetrated by any member of a family against another, it is more likely to be perpetrated by men against women and children.
  • 4. Family Violence Protection Act 2008
  • 5. Family Violence Protection Act 2008 Under the Victorian Governments Family Violence Protection Act 2008 family violence is: (a) behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person if that behaviour• is physically or sexually abusive; or• is emotionally or psychologically abusive; or• is economically abusive; or• is threatening; or• is coercive; or
  • 6. Family Violence Protection Act 2008• in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person;or(b) behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of, behaviour referred to in paragraph (a).
  • 7. Facts about family violence• Family violence directly affects one in five Victorian women over the course of their lifetime.• It is the leading contributor to preventable death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44 years VicHealth 2004• During 2010/2011, there were 40,892 incidents where police submitted family incident reports. This was 14.6% higher than the 35,690 reports submitted in 2009/2010.• Less than 20 per cent of affected women report family violence to the Victorian police
  • 8. Facts about family violence• Indigenous women are 35 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be hospitalised as a result of family violence. In some communities this statistic may be much higher.• Studies have found the frequency and severity of intimate partner violence to be higher during pregnancy.• Women are more likely to be killed by a male partner or an ex-partner than by any other person• Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence, especially when perpetrators are carers who are in a position of exerting control and power.• One of the main reasons family violence victims often remain in abusive situations is due to a lack of affordable and safe housing options.
  • 9. What is disability?
  • 10. What is disability? As the Victorian Office for Disability notes, Disability is complex and multi-dimensional. Disabilities may be apparent or hidden, serve or mild, singular or multiple, staple or degenerative, chronic or intermittent. They can be congenital, or as a result of accident, illness or ageingOffice of Disability 2008
  • 11. Womens experience of disability An individual woman’s specific functional needs, her gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, cultural background, economic status, and the expectations of self and family, all determine her experience of disability VWDN AIS 2008
  • 12. Violence against women with disabilities Research suggests it’s not always easy for women with disabilities to define their own abuse. Some women with disabilities have spent a lifetime in oppressive and abusive situations, and for this reason alone, may have difficulty understanding what is abusive treatment and what is not Jennings 2003
  • 13. review of the literature: key findingsWomen with disabilities:• Experience violence in similar ways to other women and also experience violence specially related to their disability;• Are at greater risk of experiencing violence;• Experience violence at similar or higher prevalence rates than those without;• Experience violence at the hands of a greater number of perpetrators;• Are not believed when they report experiences of violence;• Think they will not be believed and so do not report experiences of violence VWDN AIS 2008
  • 14. Who are the perpetrators? Perpetrators are not just intimate partners or family members, but also include those who provide personal care. Any understanding of ‘family’ or ‘domestic relationship’ must reflect the diverse types of domestic relationships that women with disabilities may have.
  • 15. Law reform The Family Violence Act 2008 extends the meaning of family member to include any other person whom the relevant person regards or regarded as being like a family member if it is or was reasonable to regard the other person as being like a family member having regard to the circumstances of the relationship.
  • 16. Law reform An example of the meaning of family member: is a relationship between a person with a disability and the persons carer may over time have come to approximate the type of relationship that would exist between family members.
  • 17. The violence might be perpetrated by:• intimate partner or spouse• relatives• paid or unpaid caregivers (male and female)• co-patients, co-residents• residential and institutional staff• service providers
  • 18. Impact on women with disabilities Researchers have found that compared to non-disabled women, women with disabilities:• experience violence at higher rates and more frequently;• are at a significantly higher risk of violence;• have considerably fewer pathways to safety;• tend to be subjected to violence for significantly longer periods of time;• experience violence that is more diverse in nature; and• experience violence at the hands of greater numbers of perpetrators.WWDA
  • 19. Why increased vulnerability ? Why women with disabilities are more vulnerable to violence than no-disabled women:• dependence on others• fear of disclosure• poverty, lack of economic independence and exclusion from jobs• social isolation• place of residence• communication
  • 20. Increased vulnerability• lack of services and support• lack of access to the criminal justice system• nature of disability• low self esteem and lack of assertiveness• discrimination: women with disabilities are perceived as inferior, genderless, objectified, asexual or overly sexual, with minimal rights and values• lack of autonomy WWDA, VWDN AIS 2008
  • 21. More than one perpetrator It is not uncommon for women with disabilities to experience violence by more than one person in their lifetimes and for the experience of violence to be a protracted and enduring feature in their lives WWDA 2008 , VicHealth 2011
  • 22. Using the disability to gain control Many women with disabilities talk about how the perpetrator deliberately manipulated the truth and/or situations to make them, and others, question their own ability.
  • 23. Physical abuse
  • 24. Psychological abuse
  • 25. Physical abuse
  • 26. Sexual abuse
  • 27. Financial abuse
  • 28. Social isolation
  • 29. Violence induced disability
  • 30. Violence induced disability Although many are aware that violence causes death, there is less awareness that domestic violence causes disability.
  • 31. Violence induced disability Women who have been exposed to violence have a greater risk of developing a range of health problems, including stress, anxiety, depression, pain syndromes, phobias and somatic and medical symptoms World Health Organization (WHO) 2000
  • 32. Violence induced disability Women who have been exposed to violence report poorer physical health overall, are more likely to engage in practices that are harmful to their health and experience difficulties in accessing health servicesWHO 2000
  • 33. Violence induced disability The psychological consequences of violence against women can be as grave as the physical effects. Depression is one of the most common consequences of sexual and physical violence against women. Women who suffer from violence are also at a higher risk of stress and anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder UN Secretary-General 2006
  • 34. Seeking help
  • 35. Seeking helpObstacles regarding help seeking• greater isolation;• The impact of previous help-seeking experiences;• The difficulty many experience in being believed or taken seriously;• The sheer practical obstacles they face in obtaining information or assistance, a lack of awareness and skills on the part of service providers in dealing with women with disabilities who experience domestic violence; and• A lack of coordination and cooperation across services regarding these women’s needs VWDN AIS 2007
  • 36. Family violence in all its forms clearly violatesa person’s human right to be free of violence.
  • 37. References:Cockram, Judith (2003) Silent Voices: Women with Disabilities and family and domestic violence, Women with DisabilitiesAustralia; available at www.wwda.org.au/silent1.htmDepartment of Justice (2009) The Victorian Family Violence Database Volume 4: Nine Year Trend Analysis prepared by theVictims Support AgencyJennings, C. (2003) Triple Disadvantage: Out of sight, Out of mind, Domestic Violence and Incest ResourceCentre, Melbourne.Office for Disability (2008) Overview of Disability in Victoria, Office for Disability, Department of Planning and CommunityDevelopment (January)VicHealth (2011) Preventing violence against women in Australia: Addressing the social and economic determinants ofmental and physical health www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/PublicantionsVWDN AIS (2008) Building the Evidence: A report on the status of policy and practice in responding to violence againstwomen with disabilities in Victoria Victorian Women with Disabilities Advocacy Information Service, MelbourneVWDN AIS (2007) A Framework for Influencing Change: responding to violence against women with disabilities, VictorianWomen with Disabilities Advocacy Information Service, MelbourneWWDA (2008) WWDA Policy Paper: ‘The Role of Advocacy in Advancing the Human Rights of Women with Disabilities inAustralia’ (April), Women With Disabilities Australia, Rosny Park, Tasmania; available athttp://www.wwda.org.au/advpolpaper08.htm.WWDA (2008) We’re women too! Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Response to theAustralian Government’s Consultation on the National Plan to Reduce Violence againstWomen and Children http://www.wwda.org.au/wwdasubNAP08.htm