3 September 2021

'Happier in prison': Royal Commission shines light on abuse in disability sector

| Dominic Giannini
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Man in a wheelchair

People with a disability are sharing their experiences with the Royal Commission. Photo: File.

WARNING: This story contains depictions of sexual assault and abuse.

One woman with a disability said she was the happiest she had even been in prison because it allowed her to feel safe and not have to look over her shoulder.

She is in prison for manslaughter for killing her partner after he raped her.

Further horrific details of sexual abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation experienced by people with a disability have come to light in the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability’s fourth progress report.

The Commission found that four in five perpetrators of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation against people with a disability were known to the person. The perpetrators were mostly paid support workers, teachers or medical professionals, the Commission was told.

Those who reported the abuse often found no justice, with the vast majority of people who made complaints telling the Royal Commission that they did not receive a satisfactory outcome. No action was taken in half of the reported complaints.

One person with a disability was being sexually abused by her boss at a non-profit organisation and was told that if she reported his conduct, she would be fired.

READ ALSO Lockdown and masks amplify isolation for people with speech disability

The Commission was told that girls at this organisation were abused in the workshop during work hours and breaks. When the person eventually went to the police, they were not believed and were told there was insufficient evidence. One of the victims at the organisation committed suicide.

The testimonies formed part of the 282 private sessions held by the Royal Commission between 1 January and 30 June 2021. A total of 410 private sessions have been completed.

CEO of Advocacy for Inclusion Nicolas Lawler said he hoped the stories from the report would encourage more people with a disability in the ACT to feel confident sharing their experiences.

“The fourth progress report is shining a light on experiences of people with disability nationally,” he told Region Media.

“The Disability Royal Commission is an opportunity for people with disability to be heard and have their experiences acknowledged. We need to make sure that everyone in the ACT who wants to share their story has the opportunity to do so.”

People with a disability who want to share their story with the Royal Commission can do so at disability.royalcommission.gov.au, or contact Advocacy for Inclusion on 6257 4005 or info@advocacyforinclusion.org for help.

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