A practical approach to group work with women with intellectual disabilities impacted by domestic and family violence

Mrs Hannah Sanson1, Victoria Tucker1

1WWILD Sexual Violence Program, Wooloowin, Australia

When compared to women without disability, women with intellectual disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing domestic and family violence. They experience violence at higher rates, in more severe forms, and for lengthier periods of time. They are also less likely to report incidents of violence and have fewer options for accessing support. In recognising this disparity and barriers for women with intellectual disabilities accessing mainstream services, WWILD developed a therapeutic and educational group work model to respond to and prevent the prevalence of domestic and family violence amongst this community.

WWILD used an action research process to develop and evolve a 9-week domestic and family violence group program. A literary review was done to establish a thorough understanding of community needs and establish best-practice processes. Consultation was completed with two well-established local support groups and six women with intellectual disabilities who had been impacted by domestic and family violence.

WWILD has successfully run the therapeutic and educational program twice and is running a third program in 2021. A pre-group interview process was developed to assess the needs of each participant so activities fit the capacities of the group. Post-group interviews assist in evaluating the effectiveness of the program and provide opportunities for further consultation.

Likely this model will continue to evolve, and be altered depending on the individual group needs and capacities. WWILD needs to conduct further research to measure the long-term impact on community, but feedback from women has been overwhelmingly positive and shown increased capacity to recognise and respond to experiences of domestic and family violence.


Victoria Tucker is a social worker working with people with intellectual disabilities as a trauma counsellor at WWILD. Victoria has worked in the disability sector for 19 years. The focus of her work is supporting people to work through their traumatic experiences, build strengths, capacities, supportive relationships, and decrease vulnerability.