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New data shows high rates of violence experienced by persons with disabilities

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New data giving a more accurate picture of the high rates of interpersonal violence and sexual assault being experienced by disabled people in Aotearoa New Zealand has saddened but not surprised Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.

The New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey Cycle 3 (October 2019-November 2020) published today by the Ministry of Justice shows that disabled people are more likely to experience crime across all types of offences including interpersonal violence and sexual assault.

When age differences are taken into account the risk of interpersonal violence for disabled adults is twice as high as the New Zealand average. Up to 16 percent of disabled New Zealanders experience interpersonal violence compared to up to 7 percent for non-disabled.

“Adjusting the figures to take account of the disabled population having a higher proportion of older people – who are generally at a lower of risk of crime – has created a more accurate picture of what disabled people are experiencing,” Ms Tesoriero said.

“This data reinforces international statistics and what experienced practitioners in Aotearoa know but haven’t had the data to support. While I am saddened by this information I am grateful that this will increase knowledge and understanding of what is happening in Aotearoa,” she said.

The survey also showed that disabled adults are significantly more likely than non-disabled adults to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime at 28% compared with 23%. This means that disabled adults are about 21% more likely to experienced sexual assault than non-disabled adults.

After standardising by age, the survey found that disabled adults are about 52% more likely than non-disabled adults to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

“One of my and the Commission’s priorities is to promote the right to be free from violence and highlight the lack of prevention or appropriate and accessible support for tāngata whaikaha and disabled people experiencing violence and abuse in Aotearoa,” Ms Tesoriero said.

This new data may still be underestimating the prevalence of violence given the selection of participants and the survey methodologies which exclude some disabled people such as those in supported residences (or residential support) or reliant on others for communication.

Tāngata whaikaha and disabled people can find it difficult to escape violence and abuse because of the control other people have over their lives and a lack accessible resources, such as information and emergency accommodation.

“These statistics demonstrate the critical need for support and the importance of the mahi being done by the Joint Venture into Family Violence and Sexual Violence. I and the Human Rights Commission will continue to work alongside the joint venture to address these issues for disabled people.”

The formation of the joint venture was announced by the Government in September 2018 to work across 10 government agencies to reduce family violence and sexual violence. It consists of the Accident Compensation Corporation, the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Development, the New Zealand Police, Oranga Tamariki, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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