As a disabled woman, it is more likely than not that you will be the victim of stalking or harassment

IT’S a very sad indictment that disabled men and women are far more likely to experience acts of abuse and violence than others in their community.

Disabled men are more at risk of physical abuse, while a staggering 55 per cent of disabled women experience stalking and harassment – from the age of 15.

Just think about that figure of 55 per cent. That means that even before adulthood, the reality is that a disabled woman is more likely than not to fall victim to being stalked or harassed.

People with a disability are also more likely to be disadvantaged across a range of other areas, suffering greater rates of poverty, unemployment, poor housing and social exclusion.

But while the figures in relation to the abuse of some of society’s most vulnerable people would appear to be shocking, a disability service boss says the statistics come as no shock at all to him.

Disability Advocacy and Information North East chief executive Martin Butcher, pictured, says the findings by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health are in line with his experiences.

He says while there is no excuse for the abuse of disabled people, there were a couple of factors that can make them more vulnerable.

Disabled people who are living in group homes can have behavioural issues that unfortunately can be met with aggressive handling by staff or carers.

And the reality is, as Mr Butcher says and as backed by the latest research, disabled people living in the community tend to be living in lower-income areas, making them more likely to find themselves in situations where they are at risk.

Mr Butcher said it was time for some serious consideration to be given in relation to the prevalence of violence against disabled people.

His organisation is on hand to support them, to advocate for them and to assist them in dealing with police and the justice system.

Sadly, some disabled people don’t have a voice at all – there are those that can’t recognise or communicate when abuse is happening to them. That vulnerability is what makes them easy targets for abusers.

We have come a long way in advancing the care and respect shown to people who are living with a disability but these latest disappointing findings show we still have a long way to go.

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