Seven in 10 women with disability felt uncomfortable accessing support for domestic violence

Posted 3 months ago by David McManus
A new report has revealed how many women and children with disability struggle to seek support through domestic and family violence services. [Source: Shutterstock]
A new report has revealed how many women and children with disability struggle to seek support through domestic and family violence services. [Source: Shutterstock]

Content warning: the following article contains references to domestic violence, family violence and sexual violence.

Key points:

  • People With Disability Australia has released a new report that emphasises the need for increased accessibility and inclusion in domestic and family violence services
  • The PWDA revealed that 71 percent of women with disability have not felt welcome when accessing DFVS
  • PWDA has called for additional funding and a national rollout of the Building Access Project to address these concerns


A new report from peak advocacy group People With Disability Australia has revealed that women with disability, who have a 40 percent higher risk of domestic and family violence, overwhelmingly felt that they were not welcome to access services to address their lived experiences.

The research involved in-depth interviews with women and non-binary people who have lived experience of disability and domestic, family and sexual violence. Service providers engaged in the Building Access Project — an initiative to educate and inform providers about inclusion and accessibility — were also interviewed and the wider DFSV sector was surveyed as part of the research.


The key findings of the report revealed that of the women with disability interviewed:

  • 100 percent have experienced fear and mistrust of services and authorities
  • 71 percent would avoid reporting incidents of DFSV to police in the future
  • 57 percent avoided seeking support due to negative past experiences including dismissal, discrimination and experiencing further harm
  • 28 percent reported fear of having children removed from their care if they accessed services.


Of the service providers who took part in the Building Access Project, 100 percent reported a significant increase in accessibility. The most substantial change was in attitudinal accessibility, influenced by critical training delivered and informed by women with disability with lived experience of violence.

PWDA has recommended the recommissioning and funding of the Building Access project for a further five years, following the previous extension to June of 2023.

PWDA President Nicole Lee said the report provided compelling evidence about the challenges women with disability face and the need for services to evolve and properly accommodate the needs of the people they support.

“PWDA’s Building Access report is a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done. It’s unacceptable that women with disability are unwelcome, harmed and discriminated against when seeking support for domestic and family violence,” Ms Lee said.

“We must act now to ensure these services are inclusive and accessible.

“Ongoing funding and a national rollout of the Building Access Project accompanied by financial resources to support somebody with the services they need in a crisis is the only acceptable response to this report.

“This would demonstrate a clear commitment from all levels of government to address the barriers and challenges women with disability face when accessing domestic and family violence services.

Building Access Project Manager Karina Noble said the project had significantly improved how domestic and family violence services operate.

“[The Building Access Project] has supported service providers to embed inclusion into every part of their work by providing guidance on low-cost and easy ways to start increasing accessibility,” Ms Noble said.

The release of the report coincided with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, as Nicole Lee emphasised the need to challenge ableist attitudes and systems.

“Building Access is a vital piece of the puzzle and offers a roadmap for how domestic and family violence services can undertake that change themselves, but it has to go hand-in-hand with financial support for women with disability escaping violence.

“Women with disability don’t just carry the cost of family violence, we also carry the cost of disability-specific needs as well. Alongside inaccessible and unwelcoming services comes the loss of support networks, the need to replace broken equipment and equipment we need for our daily lives, like shower chairs.


“Financial resources can make the difference between staying and leaving or life and death,” Ms Lee said.


The Building Access Project was funded by the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice under the Domestic and Family Violence Innovation Fund.


To learn about the signs of violence, abuse and resources to seek help, please visit the Building Access Project website.

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