How does the system respond to women with disabilities who experience family violence?

In 2010 Women’s Health West secured funding to develop a model for intensive case management for women with disabilities who experience family violence. Women with disabilities experience similar types of violence as non-disabled women – emotional, physical, controlling, isolation, stalking behaviour and sexual assault.

However, women with a disability are at greater risk of violence directly or indirectly related to their disability, including by caregivers, such as withholding medications and essential assistance with personal tasks like bathing. Women are frequently isolated in their own homes by their disability and lack access to mainstream services.

This project aimed to increase women’s access to family violence services in a system lacking agreed protocols, frameworks and training. The Department of Human Services acknowledged that service provision to women with disabilities required a more integrated approach. The complexity and diversity of this client base means disability and family violence fields need to develop a shared understanding of our roles, particularly for clients whose needs span both sectors.

The report recommends a shared understanding of family violence – frameworks, definitions and understanding of prevalence and impact – and an increase in consultation between the disability and family violence sectors at all levels.


The report outlines ten recommendations including training all disability workers to use the Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF) currently used by family violence workers and police. Adoption by the disability sector would support workers to identify risk factors and respond consistently and appropriately.

Another recommendation involves protocols for reciprocal secondary consultations that enable disability workers to discuss family violence concerns with family violence workers. Concerns that are difficult to substantiate can lead to non-reporting by disability staff, who are well aware of the vital and sometimes difficult role that families and carers play in supporting the needs of women with a disability. Appropriate discussion of these concerns provides the worker with support and enhances the woman’s safety.

How does the system respond to women with disabilities who experience family violence?