Kymberly Martin

Abuse risk factors overlooked in people with disability

A Disability Royal Commission report found that further research is needed on protective factors and interventions to protect people with disability from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.


Researchers, with help from an advisory group with lived experience of disability, disability service providers and advocates found that while the majority of studies focused on the risks for people with disability, few looked at risk factors which enable perpetrators or systemic issues that enable violence.

Lack of education for formal and informal carers and professionals has a negative impact on people with disabilities too and an absence of understanding about disabilities and how to support them increases the likelihood of neglect and abuse.

The research highlighted ways in which people with disability struggle within existing systems, rather than identifying ways in which individuals closest to the person with disability contribute to harm. These may be carers, family members, educators, healthcare staff, those in the legal system, and other professionals.


The report also revealed that evidence from the studies suggest that people with disability are more likely than others to experience all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. And being a female with disability increases the risk of violent crime, intimate partner or gender-based violence, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Another two studies reported that being a male with a disability increases the risk of experiencing physical abuse.

Other risk factors include being female and young, past experience of violence or abuse, lower socioeconomic status or poverty and unemployment.

The Rapid Evidence Review: Violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation of people with disability, was a joint project between Monash University and the Centre for Evidence and Implementation.

To find out more you can read the full report here on our website.