Violence against disabled people in New Zealand - new research
New University of Auckland research presented in two papers , one on the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence, the other on the prevalence of non-partner physical and sexual violence, has just been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The data used to measure the prevalence of violence against disabled people was derived from the 2019 New Zealand Family Violence Study. Of the almost 3,000 people interviewed for the family violence research, about one-in-five were women and about one-in-seven women reported a disability. The research participants were people living in their own homes. Given that none of the research participants were people living in residential services, retirement homes or who required support to communicate, the findings are likely to have underestimated the level of violence experienced by disabled people in New Zealand.
The new research shows that rates of violence against disabled people in New Zealand are much higher than those experienced by the rest of the population. Key findings included:
- Those with any disability reported significantly higher rates of most forms of intimate partner violence than those without disabilities, among both genders.
- 40% of disabled women experienced physical intimate partner violence over their lifetimes, compared with 25% of non-disabled women.
- Disabled women were more likely to report experiences of sexual intimate partner violence (range = 13.5%-17.1%) than disabled men (range = 4.0%-21.2%).
- Men with intellectual disability were more likely to report physical intimate partner violence (60.5%) than women with intellectual disability (36.0%).
- More people with disabilities reported non-partner physical and sexual violence experience than those without disabilities.
- Women and men with psychological disabilities reported the highest prevalence rates of non-partner physical and sexual violence.
- The main perpetrators of non-partner physical violence for disabled women were parents and relatives (59.7%).
- The main perpetrators of non-partner physical violence for disabled men were strangers (59.3%).
These research results are broadly in line with estimates in the New Zealand Crime and Victimisation Survey (2019/20) released in June this year. For example:
- Among disabled adults, the risk of age-adjusted interpersonal violence was twice as high as the New Zealand average.
- Disabled adults (28%) were more likely than other adults (23%) to have been subjected to sexual assault in their lifetime.
- Disabled adults (23%) were significantly more likely than other adults (16%) to have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
- Age-standardised data showed that 6.5% of disabled people experienced offences by family members during the previous 12 months compared with 2.1% of non-disabled people.
The research findings above highlight the need to develop and support violence prevention and response programmes that are accessible to disabled people. These programmes also need to be equipped with specialist knowledge and resources to respond to the risk of violence experienced by disabled people.
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