Children by Choice Association
Project: Designing Accessible Sexual Health and Unplanned Pregnancy e-Resources with women with intellectual and/or learning disabilities (Project DASHER)
Location: Australia wide
Duration: 6 months
Requested Amount: $40,000 from a total project cost of $46,200. This grant will be used to fund co-design workshops, copyright fees, graphic design, dissemination and project coordination.
This project will co-design health information resources tailored for the needs of women with intellectual and/or learning disabilities to consider pregnancy options, contraception, consent, and to recognise signs of reproductive coercion.
Who is the organisation and what is their mission?
Children by Choice (CbyC) is an independent, Brisbane-based organisation, committed to advancing the reproductive autonomy of women and people who may have a pregnancy. For almost 50 years, CbyC has provided free, non-directive pregnancy options counselling, material aid and referral to people experiencing hardship or distress due to pregnancy.
CbyC also provides education, training, advocacy and evidence-based information and resources to the public and health and community sectors to dismantle the barriers that people face when seeking support and services for their reproductive choices.
What is the project that the 100 Women grant will support?
This project will use experience-based co-design to work with women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities to develop plain English resources to empower themselves and their peers to consider unplanned pregnancy options, contraception, consent, and to recognise signs of reproductive coercion. Reproductive coercion is deliberate perpetrator behaviour that interferes with the autonomy of a person to make reproductive health choices, including pressure to get pregnant, contraceptive sabotage and pregnancy outcome control.
The project’s free, non-biased, evidence-based printable e-resources will be nationally disseminated to enable health and community sector professionals, as well as support people, to increase the health literacy and reproductive autonomy of women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities across Australia.
Who is the project for? Who else will benefit?
The target beneficiaries are women across Australia with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities. Women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities are overrepresented as victims of sexual and domestic violence, with 50% of Australian women (334,076 women) with psychological and/or cognitive impairment having experienced sexual violence.
Additional beneficiaries include the support networks of these women, specifically health and community sector professionals as well as family and friends.
Why is the project needed – what is the need or opportunity that is being addressed?
Project DASHER addresses the disproportionately high rates of sexual violence and reproductive coercion among Australian women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities. One in two women in this group report experiences of sexual violence, compared with one in six in the general population. In particular, women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities are highly vulnerable to reproductive coercion and abuse by intimate partners, families and carers.
Few mainstream Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault (DFVSA) services are resourced to support women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities. Research and consultation with consumers and DFVSA sector staff identified unmet needs for health literacy and educational resources describing reproductive rights, pregnancy decision making and sexual violence support as key drivers to improving health and safety outcomes for women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities.
Why is the solution the best answer to the identified need or opportunity?
This project is based on the wishes of the beneficiary group. In focus groups, beneficiaries expressed preference to not seek information about DFVSA, pregnancy decision making, consent, and contraception from mainstream providers. Instead, they expressed a preference to receive information from known health providers, support workers and trusted friends and family.
Project DASHER was designed to create resources that can be used by these preferred sources to educate the beneficiary group and increase accessibility to mainstream services. Utilising experienced-based co-design, the voices and preferences of the beneficiary group will be inherently represented, leading to health information resources that are fit for purpose.
What are the planned outcomes as a result of the project?
Project DASHER will deliver co-designed printable e-resources to support the beneficiary group in discussions about consent, pregnancy options, contraception and reproductive coercion with their care networks. It will also support delivery of DFVSA and health provider workshops to improve reproductive coercion literacy and increase ability to serve women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities.
Ultimately it is hoped Project DASHER will contribute to decreasing the prevalence of reproductive coercion, sexual violence, and family violence amongst Australian women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities.
Are there any notable partners or collaborators?
Project DASHER is an extension to a long-standing collaboration between CbyC and Women with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities – Sexual Violence Prevention Association, seeking to better support women with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities.
National dissemination of Project DASHER resources will be possible through strong networks across primary health networks, women’s hospitals and maternity units, family planning associations, disability services, social workers and research collaboratives.