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Rapid Evidence Review: Violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability

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Rapid evidence review: Violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability

The Disability Royal Commission has published a ‘rapid review’ on violence against, neglect, abuse and exploitation of, people with disability.

A ‘rapid review’ uses a special method to analyse a lot of literature (papers/studies) on a particular topic or question.

The report looked at 2 questions:

  • How and why do people with disability experience violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation?

  • What are the things that protect people with disability from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation (protective factors) and what are the things that make it worse (risk factors)?

The report was prepared by the Centre for Evidence and Implementation and Monash University.

This video is a short summary of the report.

Key findings

The report lists several key findings based on a review of 168 papers about violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation of people with disability. These include:

  • People with disability experience violence, abuse and neglect more often than people without disability.

  • Women with disability are more likely to experience violence and abuse than men (with disability).

  • People with disability experience maltreatment repeatedly throughout their life. They are at greater risk of experiencing maltreatment when:

    • they are socially isolated

    • they experience discrimination and stigma

    • they depend on others

    • there is a lack of systems and support.

  • People with disability experience challenges in reporting maltreatment. This can be because:

    • they feel they won’t be believed or they blame themselves for the maltreatment, so they don’t report it

    • people don’t know what violence, abuse neglect and exploitation are

    • systems don’t support reporting of maltreatment – people don’t know how and when to report it.

  • People with disability are sometimes forced to accept maltreatment as a part of their daily life.

  • There is a lack of awareness and understanding of these issues in the community and by people with disability.


The report found there are gaps in studies about maltreatment of people with disability. The report said these gaps need to be addressed if we are to prevent and protect against violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.

The report said:

  • Studies investigating risk factors mainly focused on the individual with disability. There were a lack of studies that focused on risk as a problem with society (eg characteristics of the perpetrator, or lack of systems).

  • Disability, and people’s experience of it, was presented as the same rather than diverse. For example, most studies focused on the experience of people with cognitive or intellectual disability, as opposed to other types of impairment. And not many studies took into account experiences of people with disability who are First Nations or from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

  • Most studies presented disability from a negative point of view. They focused on people with disability being vulnerable rather than capable. And studies focused on the way people with disability struggle within systems, rather than how community fails them.

To read the full report, visit the ‘Publications’ section on our website.