Projects support people with disabilities who are victims of violent crimes

Dec 09, 2011

Violent crimes against people with disabilities, age 12 or older, are double what they are for people without disabilities.

The good news:  Crime in the United States is decreasing and is now at its lowest level since 1973.

The bad news:  Despite this trend, there are some alarming statistics for Americans with developmental disabilities.  High rates of violence and abuse are evident in their lives.  Violent crimes against them, age 12 or older, are double what they are for people without disabilities.  That is a disturbing statistic.  An even more disturbing statistic is that the rate of abuse is 3.4 times greater among children with disabilities than for children without disabilities.

Those statistics are based on the reported crimes. 

Individuals with disabilities experience the highest rate of violence, yet this very large population segment is often invisible in actual statistics.  Many crimes against people with disabilities are not reported because the victim may not be able to communicate in traditional ways or even be able to speak at all. Those who do reach out for help frequently receive little or no support, be misunderstood, or even face resistance or unbelief.

The vulnerability of this population is alarming.  Many perpetrators will seek victims who are easier to assault, less likely to make a report, and whose stories are often not believed. 

The Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act of 1998 was designed to protect people with developmental disabilities from abuse. It was enacted to 1) increase public awareness of the plight of victims of crime with developmental disabilities, 2) collect data to measure the magnitude of the problem, and 3) develop strategies to address the safety and justice needs of victims of crime with developmental disabilities.

Several projects at the CPD are addressing this troubling situation.

One project, Justice, Equity, and Access, is working on solutions to help improve these statistics for people with disabilities.  This project focuses on helping people with disabilities better understand violence prevention strategies and empower them to be strong advocates for themselves and hopefully prevent them from becoming victims.

Along with educating people with disabilities, Marilyn Hammond, project director, and other project staff, focuos on training law enforcement personnel and legal advocates to effectively assist people with disabilities who do become crime victims. Through the training, they learn how to understand and communicate effectively with people with a variety of disabilities.  They also find out about various disability resources that support victims.

Another project that Dr. Hammond is working on is a three-way collaborative project between the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council, the Utah Disability Law Center, and the Center for Persons with Disabilities that focuses on preventing crimes committed to this vulnerable population in Utah.

The rate of abuse is 3.4 times greater among children with disabilities than for children without disabilities.

The Increasing Safety, Empowerment and Accessible Services to Prevent Abuse project is a five-year initiative that is working to decrease any type of violence, neglect or abuse for individuals with developmental disabilities. Trainings developed through this project will empower adults with developmental disabilities as they learn about their rights, including being safe, speaking out, and getting help before violence or abuse is committed.  They will learn how to set boundaries with those close to them, how to say “No,” and how to tell someone if something does happen to them. 

This project focuses on training providers at shelters and first responders how to work effectively with people who have disabilities of all kinds and to improve the way they provide services to them. Through the work done with providers, vulnerable adults with developmental disabilities will have an easier time accessing services.

Gordon Richins, CPD Consumer Liaison, has been a consultant for the past few years on another project with the Community Abuse Prevention Services Agency (CAPSA) and other local agencies, working together to ensure that people with disabilities who experience violence are aware of and have access to comprehensive services.  The Northern Utah Choices out of Violence initiative is developing a comprehensive web site for professionals and people with disabilities who have been victims of violent crimes. This web site will inform people of what abuse is, how it can be reported, and what resources are available for victims.

For more information about these trainings, contact Dr. Marilyn Hammond.

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