Australian commission reveals ‘high rates’ of violence against people with disability

Sydney, Australia, Sep 29 (EFE).- Millions of Australians with disability experience “high rates” of violence, abuse, neglect, as well as sexual and financial exploitation, according to a Royal Commission report published Friday by the Australian government.

“People with disability often confront dehumanizing attitudes and are treated as ‘different’, ‘other’ and ‘less than,’” said the final report from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

The rates of violence experienced by some of the 4.4 million people with disability, who represent 18 percent of the Australian population, is “unacceptable,” it stated.

Across all age groups, people with disability experience considerably higher rates of violence than people without disability, the report said, adding that people with disability also experience violence more frequently.

The report also highlighted that the rates of violence against people with disability especially impact women: the young with psychological and intellectual disability, as well as Aboriginal women.

Furthermore, 55 percent of people with disability between 18 and 64 years of age have experienced physical or sexual violence, compared to 38 percent of people without disability in the same age group, the document highlighted.

One such case is that of Chloe, a woman with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair. She was a victim of coercive control by a male support worker, extending to financial exploitation and physical and sexual abuse, resulting in a pregnancy and a miscarriage.

“He tricked me into thinking I was special, he used to tell me I was a princess. He promised me lots of things. He told me he loved me,” Chloe told the commission last year.

The report said the support worker was charged with multiple counts of rape, grievous bodily harm, torture and assault, but was not convicted. Chloe described a negative experience of being a witness in criminal proceedings, saying “[the jury] saw me as disabled and a liar, and he got off.”

The report also emphasized the serious problems of exclusion and racism experienced by Aboriginal people with disability, a situation that in many cases adds to the intergenerational trauma experienced by the families of the 100,000 children who were removed from their homes to be educated in Western institutions and families in the 20th century.

Another vulnerability factor occurs when people with disability belong to the LGBT+ community.

“I’m a person of color who has grown up in a white dominated society. I’m a person with a disability growing up in an ableist world. I’m a same-sex attracted person who lives in a heteronormative world. I’m also from a lower socioeconomic background,” one person quoted in the report said. “For me, it has been really important to find my people who accept all parts of my multi-dimensional identity.”

The final report of this commission, which was created in April 2019 and is the result of the analysis of 8,000 written cases and 837 testimonies given in public hearings, gave 220 recommendations that include the implementation of a rights law for those with disability.

It also calls for protecting the right to non-discrimination and equality before the law, updating the standards of public defenders, legal guardianships and those responsible for trusts, in addition to ending special schools for those with disability by 2051. EFE


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