Adults with cognitive impairment – particularly women – are more at risk of sexual assault and we know that women with disabilities are more likely to experience partner or sexual violence. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s (VEOHRC) Beyond Doubt report, released earlier this year, documents the manifold barriers to people with disabilities reporting crimes and gives 28 recommendations towards dismantling barriers.
Recommendations address three main areas:
- police culture and processes;
- court processes; and
- approaches that provide safeguards.
This research was conducted under section 157 of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010. It was initiated because of concerns raised by VEOHRC’s Disability Reference Group that people with disabilities face significant and complex barriers when seeking justice as victims of crime.
The Commission recognises barriers to equality in policing are linked to:
- people with disabilities being more likely to experience violent and sexual crime than other people;
- barriers to reporting crime can prevent victims from accessing other stages of the criminal justice system; and
- crimes against victims with disabilities are less likely to be successfully prosecuted – where credibility in sexual assault matters is particularly profound.
The research highlighted that when police service delivery successfully meets the needs of people with a disability it can have a significant impact on their experience with the justice system and on their feelings of safety and security in the community.
Victoria Police has considered the findings of Beyond Doubt and has begun to incorporate the recommendations in key strategies and plans. Victoria Police has committed to providing its members with the support and skills they require in order to respond to the needs of people with disabilities and to ensure that people with disabilities feel safe and supported in the community.
UCASA Webinar: The Hidden Victim — Sexual Abuse of People with Disabilities
The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) webinar provides a comprehensive exploration of:
- definitions of sexual violence,
- statistics on sexual violence and risks for people with disabilities (in Utah and the USA),
- risk reduction,
- barriers to disclosure,
- signs and symptoms,
- what to do when you suspect abuse, and
- dispelling rape myths.