Statement from Stay Safe East on the Government’s new Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy 2021-2024

Deaf and Disabled survivors let down by the Government’s new Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy and National Disability Strategy

On July 21st 2021, the Government published its Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy for England and Wales . On July 28th, it published its National Disability Strategy .

As the only user-led organisation supporting Disabled survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of violence, Stay Safe East welcomes the aim of a ‘whole system approach’ across all sectors of government set out in the VAWG Strategy. Unfortunately we do not see this reflected in either strategy, particularly when it comes to addressing the intersectional needs of Deaf and Disabled women, BAME, migrant women or LGBT communities. Disabled women and girls have been abandoned in the considerable gaps between the two strategies.

The Violence against Women and Girls Strategy

The VAWG Strategy takes a gender neutral approach and fails to address either the specific forms of abuse faced by disabled women who are at disproportionately high risk of gender-based violence, or the other forms of inequality (including poverty, racism and other discrimination and institutionalisation) that further reduce disabled women’s and girls’ safety and ability to access help if threatened or victimised.

The VAWG strategy is over-focused on the criminal justice system, yet many disabled, Deaf, BAME and migrant survivors do not trust either the Police or the Courts. Disabled women who have experienced a lifetime of abuse or who live in institutions may not have any opportunity to speak out. There are no proposals to address the complex barriers we face to accessing safety, support services, justice and moving on with our lives after abuse. Deaf survivors are not mentioned at all.

The VAWG Strategy states that the National Disability Strategy will address the issues facing disabled survivors of violence against women. This, paired with their gender neutral approach further reinforces the marginalisation and exclusion of disabled women from a Strategy purportedly meant to protect ALL women. Stay Safe East is clear: the violence experienced by disabled women is inherently gender-based. Disability discrimination is a women’s issue.

Whilst we welcome the additional funding for ‘by and for’ services, including those run by and for Deaf and Disabled survivors, it is short- term and wholly inadequate to meet the needs of marginalized survivors for whom a ‘quick fix’ doesn’t work. Survivors need to know that the organization supporting them will be there in the long term, our staff need to know their jobs are secure so they can commit to often difficult and traumatic work.


National Disability Strategy

The Disability Strategy does include some general concrete proposals in relation to the Criminal Justice System, but equally fails to address violence against disabled women and girls – or indeed the intersectional experiences of disabled women, LGBT disabled people or disabled people from BAME communities. The section on ‘safety at home’ focuses on the forthcoming and very welcome review of abuse by paid and unpaid carers , and acknowledges that domestic abuse rates for disabled women are higher than for non-disabled women. However there is not a single concrete proposal to address domestic abuse of disabled women (and men) by partners or family members, or wider VAWG issues such as the disproportionately high rates of rape against disabled women and girls, sexual harassment of disabled girls in education, or gender based violence against disabled women in institutions.

Stay Safe East will continue to work for lasting change for disabled survivors; we will continue to push for Government action on reducing the disproportionate levels of violence against Deaf and disabled women and girls and for equal access to support, justice and recovery.

Disabled survivor’s voices will be heard. Nothing about Us Without Us!

Further information:
For Stay Safe East’s comprehensive response to the VAWG Strategy Consultation and our proposals for action, please click here

For further details or comment, please contact Ruth Bashall, Policy and Projects Advisor, or Miranda Weston, Policy Officer at Stay Safe East
T/SMS text: 07587 134 122 Tuesday-Thursdays

Stay Safe East
Supporting disabled survivors
Charitable Incorporated Organisation 115 3615
90 Crownfield Road London E15 2BG