An Illawarra mother is calling for change after her intellectually disabled daughter was sexually assaulted while under the care of a local disability service provider.
Her 20-year-old daughter was indecently assaulted on a bus trip home from an outing organised by her NDIS provider - Essential Employment and Training - earlier this year.
During the journey, a man in his 20s - a volunteer support worker - sat next to the young woman and put his hands down her shirt, touching her right breast.
He then put his hands down her pants and touched her on the vagina before showing her photos of penises on his mobile phone.
The man - who no longer volunteers for the NDIS approved provider - was charged by police with aggravated sexual assault.
His DNA was found on the woman's underwear. Police also found a photo of a penis - and another sexually explicit photo - on his phone.
However the charge was dismissed at Wollongong court on July 5, with Magistrate Stoddart finding the man was "cognitively impaired .. or suffering from a mental condition", and it would be more appropriate to deal with him under the Mental Health Act.
He was ordered to stick to a mental health care plan and medication, and attend therapy sessions.
The woman's mother - who can't be named for legal reasons - has made a complaint to the Judicial Commission about the dismissal of the charge.
With no conviction recorded, she is concerned that the man would be able to volunteer or work for another NDIS-funded service provider in the region as the charge would not show in any police check.
And she believes her daughter received a tougher sentence.
"My daughter has to live with this every day - it causes her a great deal of anxiety and confusion; she thought he was her friend," she said.
"Every time we see a young man who looks like him she has a meltdown out of fear.
"She's terrified she will come across him again - and that's my fear too as he is an NDIS recipient too and there's nothing to stop him volunteering for a provider again."
The mother said her daughter was particularly vulnerable, due to her intellectual disability, and she'd been assessed as having a mental age of around eight to 10.
"I'd always been so careful because I know sexual assault of people with a disability is widespread," she said.
"I'm angry because I told the service provider that my daughter was extremely vulnerable, and that I didn't want her left unsupervised, yet this was able to happen."
Sexual assault of people with a disability is widespread. I'm angry because I told the service provider that my daughter was extremely vulnerable, yet this was able to happen.Illawarra mother
Ninety per cent of Australian women with an intellectual disability have been sexually abused according to the Australian Cross Disability Alliance.
This figure is backed up by research by the Illawarra Women's Health Centre in 2017, which also found that more than two-thirds of women with an intellectual disability had been sexually abused before they turned 18.
In the vast majority of assaults, the offender is known to the victim - perpetrators include family members, carers or co-residents of a group home or institution.
In the wake of the research project, Breaking the silence, the Warilla-based centre has developed a pioneering program to reduce sexual and domestic violence against women with a disability.
Meanwhile planning is underway for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability, which the Morrison government announced in April.
The Illawarra mother will make a submission to the commission, in the hope that things change for all Australians with a disability.
"Since the move to the NDIS, services for those with disabilities are run by privately owned providers, each of which have their own protocols and screening processes," she said.
"Instead there needs to be national protocols and standards so every establishment is held accountable for the benefit of the people they're providing a service to.
"That's what makes me so angry for what happened to my daughter - she wasn't properly supervised, she wasn't provided with a safe environment.
"It's not good enough for my daughter; it's not good enough for any other vulnerable person."
Wollongong lawyer Melinda Griffiths, lawyer for the victim, said it was a "tragic case for a lovely young lady whose life has been dramatically affected by the abuse".
Ms Griffiths said the NSW Government had implemented legislation to protect children in response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
She said the state's Civil Liability Act now placed a statutory obligation on organisations that had the responsibility for the care of a child to ensure that reasonable precautions were taken to prevent an individual associated with the organisation perpetrating child sexual abuse.
"Although in this case the victim is not a child she has been assessed as having the mental capacity of an eight to 10 year old child," she said.
"The organisation was aware that the victim was a disabled and vulnerable person. Despite this she was placed into a position where she was abused by a volunteer.
"Those who are vulnerable through either disability and or age should have the same protections as a child from physical and sexual abuse.
"Their need for protection is paramount and organisations need to ensure that when they are working with vulnerable and disabled individuals that they are protected and safe."
Essential Employment and Training declined to comment.
If you need help call the national sexual assault support line on 1800 RESPECT' or the NSW rape crisis and sexual assault hotline on 1800 424 017.