Unequal, Unheard, Unjust: But not Hidden Anymore – new report launched at Scotland’s Learning Disability and Gender-Based Violence Conference 2023

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“We will not be hidden anymore!”

The message from women with learning disabilities who have experienced gender-based violence in Scotland is clear –  they have been ignored, they have been mistreated, and they have been unable to achieve justice. But they won’t accept these violations of their human rights anymore.

This is highlighted in SCLD and People First (Scotland)’s Equally Safe Group Report published today.

The report’s title, ‘Unequal, Unheard, Unjust: But not Hidden Anymore. Women with Learning Disabilities’ Experience of Gender Based Violence in Scotland’ was developed by People First (Scotland)’s Equally Safe Group and powerfully encapsulates women with learning disabilities experiences across Scotland.

In this report, women with learning disabilities have courageously spoken about their experiences of severe, frequent and repeated abuse. The rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and commercial sexual exploitation experienced by these women and many others detailed in this report are profoundly troubling and highlight some of the most severe human rights infringements facing women with learning disabilities in Scotland today.

The research findings and the report’s recommendations are a culmination of the first year of a two-year project funded by Delivering Equally Safe.

To carry out this research, SCLD worked with key partners to produce:

  • A review of existing literature on the topic of gender-based violence and learning disability, conducted by Dr Gillian Macintyre and Dr Ailsa Stewart
  • A analysis of a Freedom of Information request made to 32 local authorities across Scotland and the Scottish Government on rates of gender-based violence
  • A thematic analysis of interviews with women with learning disabilities, service providers and learning disability nurses.

In addition to the evidence of the wide-ranging abuse experienced by women with learning disabilities in Scotland, this report has uncovered inconsistent approaches to support at a local level, the use of restrictive legislative measures against women with learning disabilities when they report crimes of gender-based violence, as well as a lack of consistent data collection and monitoring on reports of gender-based violence and how this is addressed at both a national and local level.

These findings are profoundly concerning given Scotland has committed to becoming a leading human rights-respecting nation with the creation of a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland which seeks to incorporate several international human rights treaties into Scottish law. This includes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

To meaningfully incorporate these international treaties into domestic law, attention must be given to the 14 key recommendations made within this report and action must follow.

SCLD therefore hopes these recommendations can form the basis of a nationally resourced action plan on gender-based violence and learning disabilities to lead to measurable improvements for women with learning disabilities in Scotland.

As a human rights respecting nation, we must act together to ensure the experiences outlined in this report can no longer continue unchallenged. The time for action is now.

Unheard, Unequal, Unjust– But not Hidden


You can download the full report here.

You can view the Easy Ready Summary of the report here.