Women with disabilities can indeed be exposed to sexual violence by their intimate partners, but also being sexually assaults and harassed by strangers as well as by the caregivers who provide services specifically related to their disability. Consequently, women with mental disabilities have the highest risk to be victim of sexual violence and sexual harassment.
The Stay Safe project aims to raise awareness and educate women with disabilities on how to respond to sexual harassment (both online and offline) and violent incidents, developing a training model which will apply the gender-based behavioural approach and will be based on creative drama techniques and gaming elements. Moreover, applying creative drama methodologies, it intends to train professionals working in the disability field on how to recognize the risks of sexual harassment to which women with mental disabilities are exposed to and how to support them.
The involved countries
The EU countries directly targeted by this project are Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Lithuania, which share similar experiences and challenges as regards the phenomenon of sexual violence and sexual harassment against women
In specific, according to the 2015 Italian National Institute of Statistics report, almost 1 in 3 women in Italy have disclosed physical and/or sexual violence, while the percentage of women aged 16-70 that are victims of some form of violence is 31%, of which 21% concerns sexual violence. In Greece, according to the 2014 EU FRA survey, since the age of 15, 1 in 4 women in Greece has experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Nearly 1.5 women in 100 over the age of 14 have reported sexual violence in Spain, according to the 2017 data of Spain’s National Statistics Institute. Also, in Portugal, 24% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at least once since the age of 15; 18% of women who have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by any perpetrator in the past 12 months have not told anyone (EIGE, 2017). Moreover, as stated in the 2012 EU FRA research, 35% of the respondents in Lithuania stated that they have experienced sexual harassment by any perpetrator since age 15.
There are no specific data about sexual harassment on women with mental disabilities, but according to estimations, they seemed to be more affected by sexual violence and harassment, because of their situation. With the exception
of some research data in Spain, which indicate that among 70% and 80% of people with disabilities suffer harassment in some moment of their life, among of which, the number of women is undoubtedly prevalent, there are no specific data about sexual harassment on women with mental disabilities. This is also related to the lack of
awareness of the problem among professionals working in the disability field as well as to the lack of information and sexual education among women with mental disabilities so as to be able to recognize the actions that can be considered sexual abuse/harassment. Therefore, the Stay Safe project aims to address these gaps in all involved countries and also at an EU level.