Sexual abuse: New laws to better protect people with disabilities

PEOPLE with cognitive impairments will be better protected from sexual abuse after new offences were added to the state’s Disability Justice Plan.

The new laws start today and will better protect people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment.

A cognitive impairment is defined as an intellectual disability, developmental disorder (including autistic spectrum disorders), neurological disorder, dementia, mental impairment and brain injury.

It will cover people who provide a service to someone with a cognitive impairment, regardless of whether it’s paid or voluntary.

This could include home care assistants, support workers, cleaners or nurses but also extends to others like hairdressers, bus drivers or social activity volunteers.

Spouses or domestic partners are not covered by the new laws.

Under the laws, a service provider is guilty of an offence if he or she:

USES undue influence to obtain or procure sexual intercourse or indecent contact with a person with a cognitive impairment

BEHAVES in an indecent manner in the presence of a person with a cognitive impairment without consent or obtaining that consent by undue influence.