Responding to Sexual Assault Against People With Intellectual Disability

Statistics show that people with disability, and primarily people with intellectual disability, are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual assault then their peers. People with Disability Australia Training Manager Mel Harrison writes about her upcoming one-day CCWT workshop aimed at equipping services to effectively support people with intellectual disability who have experienced sexual assault.

It is reported that more than 70 per cent of women with disability will experience sexual assault within their lifetime[1]. Women with intellectual disability experience sexual assault at even higher rates, with 90 per cent of this group experiencing sexual assault at some point in their lives[2]. Between 19-23 per cent are limited to one episode[3], which means that 77 per cent of the 70-9 per cent will experience sexual assault more than once. In more 90 per cent of the assaults, the offender is known to the victim. For people with disability, sexual violence is often perpetrated by a family member, carer or co-resident of a group home or institution.

CCWT’s one-day workshop, Responding to Sexual Assault against people with intellectual disability, is designed for service providers who work with people with disability. It will equip participants with an in-depth understanding on how to identify, prevent and respond to violence and abuse. The workshop will help participants to recognise and respond to sexual assault and other violence, and provide strategies for addressing these issues. Information will be provided on legislation, services available, rights of persons with intellectual disability and ways to respond supportively.

The training also invites discussion about how to address and remove barriers to accessing justice that people with intellectual disability experience, and different strategies of support that are available to ensure that people with intellectual disability gain control back over their lives.

Mel will be presenting Responding to Sexual Assault against people with intellectual disability in Sydney on August 21. For more information on the training please contact Mel at People with Disability Australia (02) 9370 3100 or


[1] The Age Newspaper; Silence hides shameful neglect of mentally ill; September 5, 2011; Accessed online October 2011 at:

[2] Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) (2010) Family Violence A National Legal Response. ALRC Final Report 114. Accessed online January 2013 at:–‐violence–‐national–‐legal–‐response–‐alrc–‐report–‐114

[3] Rosen, D. B. (2006) Violence and Exploitation against Women and Girls with Disability, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1087:170-177.