Kayla Kendrigan not the only case of violence against people with a disability

Content warning: this post mentions torture and may be triggering and upsetting for some readers. 

Kayla Kendrigan, 19, who is intellectually disabled, was kidnapped, tortured and almost murdered when she was thrown off Windsor Bridge while tied up. She feared that she would die, but miraculously survived.

Four of her former ‘friends’ received multiple charges including kidnapping and attempted murder.

The tip of the iceberg

It’s good that parts of the mainstream media have been reporting on this. Unfortunately, according to the Australian Institute for Family Studies, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey  of Disability, Ageing and Carers has failed to collect and display data on abuse against people with disabilities. States and Territory surveys have also failed to collect data that properly reports the issue. However, the attack against Kendrigan is far from an isolated incident.

Earlier this year on ABC’s series You Can’t Ask That: Sexual Abuse Survivors, it was pointed out that more than 70% of women with physical disabilities and over 90% of women with intellectual disabilities are victims of sexual violence.

Woman with Downs Syndrome
People with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence image: iStock

According to World Health Organisation, studies suggest that children with disabilities are nearly four times more likely to be victims of  physical violence and more than twice more likely to be sexually assaulted than able – bodied peers.

Adults with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to experience violence. People with mental conditions experience violence almost five times (4.6) higher than the general population.

 

Tackling the problem

It’s obvious, at least to me, that things need to change. Not only does there need to be a condemnation of violence against people with disabilities, but discrimination needs to be condemned completely. Croner-i offers these tips for employers:

  • Avoid asking job applicants for information about their disability or health (in Australia, people with a disability usually have no legal requirement to do so)
  • Be aware of unfavourable treatment of a person with a disability or their actions (i.e. needing medication, sick days, etc) are often unlawful (certain modifications are also protected under Australia’s Disability Discrimination  Act 1992
  • Be prepared to make relevant and reasonable adjustments to help employees with disabilities
  • Be proactive in considerations in assisting employees with a disability or medical condition.
  • Consider whether there’s a need to reallocate responsibilities that go beyond a person’s ability
  • Avoid negative assumptions about people with disabilities
  • Avoid fitness, qualifications and other requirements unless they are essential for the job
  • Any job advertisements should make no mention or implication, that the job is not suitable for disabled people
  • Make sure that any health screening is properly justified
  • Employers should make sure that people with disabilities have equal opportunities for promotions, pay rises, etc.
  • Provide guidance for managers to be aware of generalised assumptions and prejudices when dealing with job applications
  • Make sure equal opportunity policy is devised and implemented and clearly states that discrimination and harassment of people with disabilities will not be tolerated.
  • Make sure managers and recruiters are knowledgeable of policies and procedures regarding equal opportunity and making reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities.
  • Be aware of the country’s or state’s legal definition of disability
  • Make sure that no person with a disability is victimised if they make a complaint alleging discrimination or harassment
  • Take all complaints seriously and make sure that they are investigated and dealt with thoroughly
  • Make sure that any redundancies guidelines are followed carefully and don’t have adverse negative impacts on employees with disabilities.
  • Make sure that any data collecting regarding an employee’s disability or medical condition is only done with their full knowledge and written consent.
  • Use any data collected solely for the purpose of workplace adjustments and monitoring
  • Take necessary steps to prevent unfair treatment of employee by other staff.

This is so important. Not only does unemployment affect a person’s sense of self and overall morale, employment is an an area where too many people with disabilities face rejection and stigma.  This isn’t to condemn employers for violence, but such actions further entrench false beliefs about people with a disability, which in turn only exacerbates rates of mistreatment.

Violence against people with a disability or mental health condition needs to be reported on and addressed by society. Good on Mamamia, A Current Affair, and Channel Seven for reporting Kayla Kendrigan’s ideal and highlighting this. But a lot more needs to be done to help people with disabilities.

If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For emergencies, call 000. 

As always people from other countries are free to drop numbers of helplines or emergency contacts in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

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