Communities and Justice

I'm a person with disability and experiencing domestic violence

You may have an intellectual, physical, psychiatric or sensory disability. As a person with disability, you may be relying on your carer for daily support. This can make you more vulnerable to violence and abuse.

Maybe you are being hit or pushed by your daughter. Maybe you fell out of your wheelchair and need to go to the doctor but your husband refuses to take you. Maybe your carer doesn't give you your medicine when you need it or help you get to the toilet in time. Maybe you are being forced to do things you don't want to do.

If this is happening to you, you may be experiencing domestic and family violence.

You may be feeling scared, sad, ashamed and powerless. Maybe you're afraid no one will believe you. Maybe if you speak out, you're scared you'll be punished. Or maybe your partner is threatening to 'lock you away in an institution'.

You need to know that you are not alone. There are support services that can help you. The abuse and violence is not your fault. You do not deserve how you are being treated. And you are not to blame.

Domestic and family violence is wrong and is a crime. Even if the person hurting you is a family member, such as your partner, your child or another member of your family. It might even be a paid carer that is abusing you or making you feel fearful.

It can be heartbreaking when the person hurting or abusing you is someone who is meant to care for you. Remember that you have the right to be treated with respect and live a life free from violence, abuse and neglect.

What domestic and family violence might look like for people with disability

Domestic violence is not just hitting and pushing someone. It can take many forms. It can happen in your house or at a care home. Here are some examples of what domestic and family violence could be like for a person with disability.

Physical abuse

  • hitting, slapping, punching, choking, kicking, pushing you
  • giving you medicine to make you do what they want or keep you sleepy
  • not giving you your medication
  • tying you up, taking control or damaging your disability equipment, such as a wheelchair or hearing aid

Emotional abuse

  • threatening you, your children, pet or other people you care about
  • threatening to hurt you or do bad things to you, for example having you institutionalised
  • insulting you or call you names or says things like, 'No one will believe you because you're disabled'
  • refusing to help you with daily tasks such as eating, going to the toilet, giving you medicine, or showering

Sexual abuse

  • forcing you to have sex or make you do sexual things that you don't want to, even if you are married to this person
  • refusing to help you until you agree to have sex with them
  • taking nude photos of you without your permission
  • forcing you to be sterilised, have an abortion or become pregnant

Financial abuse

  • keeping and controlling your money or not allowing you to buy things you need
  • neglecting to pay your bills, such as rent, food or medicine
  • making you sign contracts that you don't really understand

Social abuse

  • keeping you isolated from your family, friends and support services
  • leaving you at home because it takes too long to help you get out of the house
  • stopping you from practising your religion

More to read

You can read more about:

Intellectual disability

If you have an intellectual disability, the Looking After Me Resource Kit will help you understand whether you are experiencing domestic and family violence.

You are not alone

Abuse and violence can make you feel confused, scared, angry, sad and sick. There are many people with disability that have experienced domestic and family violence and they know what you're going through. You can read about the experiences of these 8 women with disability.

Watch or listen: Violence against women with disability

(Video from Women With Disabilities Victoria)

What you can do

If you have been physically or sexually assaulted or threatened, or you are scared you might be, call Police Emergency on 000 or TTY 106

Call a support service

You can talk to a trained counsellor on the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline or on the Domestic Violence Line. They will listen to you and won't blame you or make you do anything you don't want to do. They will be able to get the right help for your disability.

They can also help you:

  • find a safe place to go, such as a refuge or shelter
  • discuss how to keep you and your children safe
  • decide what your next steps are
  • help you create a safety plan in case you need to leave quickly
  • give you information about applying for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVOs)

24 hours, 7 days a week
1800 727 732

National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm, excluding public holidays
1800 880 052
National Relay Service: call 1800 555 677 then ask for 1800 880 052

Talk to someone you trust

You may be scared you will be punished for speaking up or think that no one will believe you because of your disability. You may worry about how you will cope and look after yourself if you leave your carer.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to speak to someone you trust. It's important that you are listened to.

This can be a friend or a member of your family or a support care worker. Tell them what is happening to you and how it makes you feel. If you tell someone and they don’t believe you – don’t give up. Talk to someone else and keep telling people until someone helps you. You can also ask this person to help you contact a domestic violence service or the police.

Talk to your doctor

You may need to see a doctor or a nurse if you have been hurt. They will be able to refer you to the right support services. Remember that your doctor, the police or any other professional can not discriminate against you because of your disability. It is against the law to do so.


Advice from other women

You can read the advice these women with disability give other women who are experiencing domestic and family violence, including how they coped with the abuse, what they did to change their situation, and how support services and professionals helped them.

Other helpful services

Here are some more domestic and family violence support services, and legal services for people with disability.

National Relay Service

Making a call depends on your particular needs. Here are the different ways you can make a call through the National Relay Service. The 24-hour relay call numbers are below:

TTY voice calls
13 36 77

Speak & Listen
1300 555 727 

SMS Relay
0423 677 767 

Women With Disabilities Australia

Represents more than 2 million disabled women and girls in Australia.

People With Disability Australia

A national disability rights and advocacy organisation.

Australian Centre for Disability Law

Free legal advice for people in NSW

NSW Disability Discrimination Legal Centre
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30am to 12:30pm 
1800 800 708
02 9370 3135 
TTY 13 36 77 or 1800 555 677 - ask for Australian Centre for Disability Law

Intellectual Disability Rights Service

A specialist legal advocacy service for people with intellectual disability in New South Wales.

Last updated:

16 May 2023