The Silent Tears exhibition at the Commission on the Status of Women has brought attention to, and provided a space to discuss and recognise, violence against women with disability. Silent Tears is a multi-media project and exhibition by internationally renowned photographer Belinda Mason, and emerging artists Dieter Knierim, Margherita Coppolino and Denise Beckwith developed in collaboration with women with disabilities who have experienced violence and women who have acquired their disability as a direct result of violence. Trigger Warning: Silent Tears contains images and stories that include depictions and some graphic accounts of violence against women.

The Australian government co-hosted an event with the Silent Tears Project at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York on Friday 18 March 2016. An exhibition display from the Silent Tears multi-media exhibition provided a platform and space for discussion by an expert panel on the issue of violence against women with disability and the intersections of culture, gender and other forms of discrimination.

Australian-hosted Silent Tears Exhibition and Panel Event at CSW60 (Friday 18 March)


The Silent Tears Project 


Silent Tears ensures that the lived experience and voices of women with disability who experience violence are included in conversations relating to violence perpetrated against all women.


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)


Silent Tears provides a platform to share the women’s narratives to empower and strengthen, to validate their experiences by enabling them to reach out to the wider community in order to shift perceptions and raise awareness of the issue violence against women with disability. The exhibition acknowledges that violence does happen to people with disabilities, and that violence also causes disabilities. The exhibition is the result of four artist’s exploration of twenty women’s’ stories from four continents and six countries using a variety of photographic techniques and multimedia.

‘The participants collaborate as protagonists with the four artists, three of whom are emerging artists with disability, create works based on the stories of women with disability who have been subjected to psychological, physical, emotional, economic, and cultural violence.  Each portrait is accompanied by the participant’s story that they provide for us - which you can see on the Silent Tears website. The power of the exhibition comes from those who have shared their stories which include; domestic violence, forced sterilisation, psychological trauma, female genital mutilation, neglect, sexual abuse within institutions or by family members’.

Supported by the Australian Government and CBM International, and curated by Kon Gouriotis OAM, the Silent Tears exhibition was launched at the 2015 Ballarat International Foto Festival by Sue Salthouse of the Australian Prime Minister’s Advisory Panel to Reduce Violence Against Women. In March 2016, the exhibition will be displayed at the Sydney University Law Library and a forum will be held on 6 April 2016. On 12 April 2016, there will be a presentation about the work by artists Mason and Beckwith at the UN Geneva to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the formation of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In October 2016, Silent Tears will feature at the Berlin Photography Biennale. Plans for an Australian tour of the exhibition are underway along with ongoing outreach to key international venues whose focus is human rights and the arts.


The Silent Tears project is inviting women from countries outside Australia to participate in the project, if you would like to be involved or find more information please email




Silent Tears Video Installation Project  

‘The power of this exhibition, lies in the hands of those who participate it, women with disabilities who experienced violence and women who have acquired their disability as a result of violence.’  – Dieter Knierim 2015

Watch the video installation Project here



Organisations providing support and information for people with disability, their families and carers:


People with Disability Australia (PWDA) has worked for over thirty years on the issues of violence, abuse and neglect of children and adults with disability.

Women with Disabilities Australia’s (WWDA) work is grounded in a human rights based framework which links gender and disability issues to a full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.


Do you need help? Are you experiencing sexual assault or domestic and family violence? Seeking to support someone who is?

Help and assistance can be found. Call this number  1800 737 732 (Australia) to access counselling delivered by qualified, experienced professionals 24-hours a day, seven days a week, from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. Visit If you are feeling unsafe right NOW, call 000.