Disability Forum 20 November 2018

Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Alice Springs

“Breaking the silence around sexual assault”

Published in Centralian Advocate Newspaper
Tuesday 20 November 2018
By Christa Bartjen-Westermann (Manager, SARC) & Val Dearman (CEO, DAS)

I would like to go back to one of the original statements I made when this forum began and that was disability issues are not confined to people in wheelchairs or using obvious aids. Defining disability is best left to people who identify as a person with a disability because they are the experts in their own lives, they know what affect it has on their day to day living.
It is also not confined to physical aspects and ability, there are people (and their family and friends) coping with intellectual disabilities as well as a wide range of mental health issues.
For every person with an obvious disability there is are greater number of people whose disability is invisible to others. If you wonder how that person who parks in a disability park can do so when they confidently step out of their vehicle then consider you may be judging too quickly.

Whatever people are able to deal with and in some circumstances need care from others for there is an aspect of having a disability that makes people more vulnerable to the anti-social behaviours of others in community. There are well documented examples of people being taken advantage of because of an inability to fight back or run away.
As advocates we have a responsibility to ensure that we engage in systemic advocacy that raises awareness of the physical, emotional and intellectual needs for access and accountability. It is talking and interacting with those in a position to either influence or make change for those more at risk than others.

Therefore, it is important to remember that vulnerability puts people with a disability just as much, if not more at risk of becoming victims of crime and violence.
I asked Christa from SARC if she would like to contribute some thoughts on the effects of sexual assaults as this is where people with disabilities are especially vulnerable.
In my experience, it is also an area where people are reluctant to report or be able to acknowledge what has happened. Often it can take years to be able to speak about it even to a trusted friend or family member.

“Breaking the silence around sexual assault”

Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)

More and more people are standing up and saying ‘No” to sexual violence. Sexual violence can take different forms and often can have long lasting impact on people.

Sexual violence is not talked about because most people feel shame, blame themselves or think it is their fault – however, it never is.

Sexual violence is happening all over the world. It creates a climate of fear, sadness, anger and mistrust. To stop sexual violence some things must change – need to stop blaming victims, need to recognise warning signs and support people to keep safe and protected.

The Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Alice Springs can help with gathering medical evidence, provide counselling, access to Traditional Healers and generally support children and adults. SARC staff can help to find strong and positive ways to manage the impact of sexual violence.

If people are worried about being safe, talk to the police, your Disability Support Worker and/or the Sexual Assault Referral Centre. Ph. 89554500 24 hrs

Please contact DAS for any information about disability supports and services on 89531422 or email ceo@das.org.au

Link to information about SARC on the NT Government website – https://nt.gov.au/wellbeing/hospitals-health-services/sexual-assault-referral-centres

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