Silent Tears is representative of violence against women globally and ensures that the lived-experiences and voices of women with disability who experience violence are included in conversations relating to violence perpetrated against all women. In doing so, Silent Tears adheres to the United Nations (UN) definition of violence against women – Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (UN, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 1993, p.1)

Globally, violence against women and girls with disability is still an emerging topic within conversations around gender-based violence. This is reflected in the 25 November 2015 Parliament of Australia’s Senate Committee report on violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This proposal directly aligns to the Australian Government’s commitment to the innovation and promotion of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular, Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls by using the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ by utilising transformative shifts, integrated approaches, and innovative solutions to overcome the structural barriers to sustainable development.

A critical component of Silent Tears is the alignment with Australia’s priorities for women’s empowerment and gender equality through the goals of The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022, which is the Government’s framework for Australia’s commitment to upholding the human rights of Australian women and girls. The women with disability who have participated in Silent Tears are reflective of DFAT‘s emphasis on the importance of ‘gender equality and empowering women … to contribute to growth, development and stability. Violence against women and girls undermines a country’s social fabric and prevents them from achieving social and economic equality’. The Silent Tears international exhibition is representative of violence against women and girls globally, and provides a platform to have a ‘borderless’ conversation.

Narratives are an important part of commencing the healing process and are a major component of policies designed to increase the prevention of violence against women and girls with disability. Silent Tears provides a platform to share the women’s narratives to empower and strengthen them. This validates their experiences and enables them to reach out to the wider community to shift perceptions and raise awareness of the issue of violence against women with disability. The participants of Silent Tears are illustrative of the broadness of what constitutes a disability, the broadness of what constitutes violence as their experiences demonstrate the intersections of culture, gender and identity.

Silent Tears presents an opportunity for women with disability to voice their experience of violence in an unquestioned way. This unquestioning approach is unique, as often, the onus is on victims to provide evidence of their experience in order to obtain the various forms of support, which can be a barrier to actually obtaining support.

It is important to break the silence concerning the topic of violence against people with disability, and particularly the topic of violence against women with disability, as the silence exacerbates naivety. It would be naive to think violence doesn’t happen to people with disability and it is even more naive to think violence doesn’t create disability.

Silent Tears creates the opportunity for the violence that women with disability experience to be acknowledged, and to create a bridge for people to begin a journey of realisation that violence does cause disability. Silent Tears unites all women who have been subjected to violence in the realisation they are not isolated in their experience of violence.

Silent Tears reaches out and is inclusive of people, who identify as; Indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse, people with disability, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people, youth and older people. The exhibition provides a focal point for discussion, education and awareness raising – providing the impetus for social change.