EHRC has published the final report of its inquiry into disability-related harassment. The report uncovers that harassment is a commonplace experience for disabled people, but a culture of disbelief and systemic institutional failures are preventing it from being tackled effectively.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published its final report of the inquiry into disability-related harassment. The report, entitled ‘Hidden in plain sight’, contains the findings of the inquiry undertaken by the EHRC following the reporting of various disability related crimes in the media (like the Fiona Pilkington case).
The two key findings of the report are –
- Harassment is an everyday reality for many disabled people who often accept it as inevitable and part of life.
- There is a culture of disbelief around disability-related harassment. Disabled people often do not report harassment and when it is reported, public authorities mostly fail to take action against it.
Clearing some air around disability-related harassment, a severely under-researched area, the report asserts that the harassment of disabled people is not confined to a few extreme cases. It can, in fact, take many different forms, including bullying, cyber-bullying, physical violence, sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, financial exploitation and institutional abuse. Perpetrators can be strangers but also friends, partners and family members. Around 1.9 million disabled people were victims of crime in 2009/10.
The EHRC, in its inquiry examined 10 specific cases of extreme disability-related harassment to attempt to understand how and why such behaviour happens. This revealed serious flaws in the way public authorities responded to these cases. Public authorities aware of previous less serious incidents either failed to respond to them or treated them as isolated cases. Worse, in some cases, public authorities commented on the victim’s behaviour and vulnerability and suggested restrictions to their lives instead of dealing with the perpetrators.
Based on these findings, the Commission has proposed some recommendations and intends to consult stakeholders about them. The Commission feels that in order to tackle disability-related harassment, organisation and leaders need to demonstrate initiative and accountability. It has also recommended that further research be taken into the issue to make definitive data available to foster better understanding of the why and how of disability-related harassment.
This, the Commission suggests, should lead to building an unhindered route to reporting disability-related harassment. It would start with training frontline staff who may be required to deal with disability-related harassment to ensure that they recognise and respond properly to such issues. Changing public attitudes towards disabled people and such harassment is obviously part of the wider solution. To inititate this change, under-representation of disabled people across all areas of public life needs to be redressed.
To read the full report, please visit EHRC.
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