The Safety Net


Chapter 15 Supplement Victimization of Individuals with Disabilities
NVAA 2000 Text

Statistical Overview

  • The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports show that in 1998, of the 9,235 reported bias-motivated offenses, 27 were motivated by disability bias--14 by anti-physical disability bias and 13 by anti-mental disability bias (FBI 17 October 1999, 60).
  • Approximately 54 million Americans live with a wide variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities (Tyiska September 1998).
  • Estimates indicate that at least 6 million serious injuries occur each year due to crime, resulting in either temporary or permanent disability. The National Rehabilitation Information Center has estimated that 50% of patients who are long-term residents of hospitals and specialized rehabilitation centers are there due to crime-related injuries (Ibid.).

Federal Legislation

The Crime Victims With Disabilities Awareness Act of 1998 (Public Law: 105-301) was designed to increase public awareness of the plight of victims of crime with developmental disabilities. The act directs the Attorney General to:

  • Conduct a study to increase knowledge and information about crimes against individuals with developmental disabilities, the results of which will be useful in developing new strategies to reduce the incidence of such crimes.
  • Report study results to specified congressional committees.
  • Include, as part of each National Crime Victimization Survey, statistics relating to the nature of crimes against individuals with developmental disabilities and the specific characteristics of the victims of those crimes.

Relevant Training

Effective training for victim service providers, law enforcement, and prosecutors on assisting victims with disabilities varies according to type of disability, as do viable risk reduction programs. The initiatives described below approach the issues from various angles:


The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University is conducting a three-year initiative called End the Silence funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program approaches crime against people with developmental and other disabilities as a problem similar to violence against women, child abuse, and elder abuse. End the Silence recognizes that while much progress has been made in these three areas, crimes against people with disabilities continues to be largely invisible and unaddressed in mainstream criminal justice. Part of the initiative is devoted to self-advocacy. Individuals with disabilities, including victims, are taking an active role in developing the training material on sexual abuse awareness and are participating in the pilot training programs.

Program goals are to:

  • Develop and disseminate focused training curricula.
  • Develop communication boards with understandable vocabulary and symbols to convey risk prevention strategies and disseminate them to individuals with significant cognitive and speech disabilities and/or assist these individuals in reporting sexual abuse when it occurs.
  • Pilot test the training curricula for law enforcement, victim service providers, prosecutors, families, and allies in a five-county area around Philadelphia.
  • Conduct research and advance systemic change.
  • Conduct a national public awareness campaign on the victimization of individuals with disabilities.

The first completed publication, Keeping Yourself Safe at Home, at Work, and in the Community, is a risk reduction program to educate victims with developmental disabilities about sexual abuse and safety strategies to prevent it. The publication will be available for distribution after pilot testing is completed. End the Silence, Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA (215-204-1356)


A three-hour training curriculum, Understanding Mental Retardation: Training for Law Enforcement, provides police officers with information about victim and offender issues involving people with this disability. The training includes a fifteen-minute video, program materials, hand-outs, and references for background reading. The ARC of the United States, 500 E. Border Street, Suite 300, Arlington, TX 76010 (817-261-6003) (Davis August 1998).



The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect at the Department of Health and Human Services has sponsored the development of a curriculum to provide trainers with a framework for teaching victim service providers about the maltreatment of children with disabilities. Responding to Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities: A Trainer's Guide is made up of five modules that include an introduction to disabilities; the relationship between maltreatment and disabilities; assessment protocols; child protective services practices for children with disabilities; and risk reduction. The training curriculum specifically addresses myths about disabilities; impact of disability on communication and culture; incidence and prevalence of abuse and neglect; signs of abuse and neglect; and medical examination practices. The curriculum manual provides a lecture guide, participant guides, trainer's texts, transparencies or Power Point slides, and videotapes for each module (Steinberg, Hylton, and Wheeler 1998).


The Disability, Abuse & Personal Rights Project (DAPR) has developed sensitive forensic interviewing protocols for use by criminal justice professionals with victims of sexual assault who have cognitive and communication impairments. A curriculum for police making first response is currently under development. For disability service providers, DAPR has developed training on the identification and reporting of sexual assault. They have also developed training on risk reduction strategies for parents of and individuals with cognitive and communication impairments. They are currently working with the California State Board of Control (SBOC) and child protective services to change the child victim data collection system to include the reporting and tracking of children with disabilities who are sexually assaulted, and children who are disabled as a result of abuse. In addition, DAPR coordinates a national conference, conducts research, and generates articles, documents, and guidebooks on sexual assault primarily of children and adults who have developmental handicaps. Related subjects include: sexual abuse, other types of abuse, sexuality of persons with disabilities, parenting issues, protections of sexual civil liberties, and other civil rights. Issues related to abuse, such as perpetrators with developmental disabilities, and the onset of disability as a result of abuse, are also addressed. Disability, Abuse & Personal Rights Project, Spectrum Institute,

P.O. Box T, Culver City, CA 90230 (310-391-2420)

Promising Practices

  • Enhancing Your Interactions with People with Disabilities. This American Psychological Association (APA) brochure targets victim service providers, mental health providers, advocates, and psychologists and assists them in the development of improved communication skills with people with disabilities. Enhancing Your Interactions with People with Disabilities addresses three critical areas:

- Initial approaches to people with disabilities. The effective use of language in portraying their condition lays the groundwork for the success of further communication. Words mirror prevailing attitudes, and societal attitudes are the fundamental barriers that people with disabilities must overcome to have successful interactions.

- Communication issues. To reduce anxiety when interacting with people with specific disabilities, the brochure offers specific advice on how to communicate with deaf individuals, the visually impaired, the speech impaired, and individuals with mobility impairments.

- Compliance. To meet the legal and ethical obligations as set forth by The Americans with Disabilities Act, and to better serve the needs of individuals with disabilities, the brochure offers guidelines and advice on service requirements, referrals, physical barriers to office access, and specials aids to enhance communication.

The brochure is available by mail from APA or in an alternative form on its Web site American Psychological Association, 750 First Street NE, Washington DC 20002 (800-374-2721)

  • All Walks of Life. The mission of this Texas-based, nonprofit organization is to empower social solutions for people with disabilities. They believe that the vulnerability of people with disabilities attracts predators, and that whenever there is a reduction in an individual's mobility or life skills, there is an increased risk of violence and repetition of violence unless measures are taken to prevent it. All Walks of Life promotes the position that people with disabilities can and should engage in prevention solutions, that they are capable of being responsible for self-awareness that they live in a violent culture, and that they should learn violence prevention skills that will help them compensate for their vulnerability. The All Walks of Life Web site includes useful resources and links relating to violence and violence prevention for people with disabilities. All Walks Of Life, 9106 Benthos, Houston, TX 77083 (281-495-9226)

Web Sites

  • The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, NICHCY is a national information and referral center on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals that emphasizes services to children and young adults, age twenty-two years or under. State resource sheets that help locate organizations and agencies that address disability-related issues serving children and youth can be found through NICHCY, P.O. Box 1492, Washington DC 20013 (800-695-0285).
  • Disability Resources, Inc. Disability Resources, Inc., a nonprofit organization, maintains the Disability Resources Monthly (DRM) Guide to Disability Resources on the Internet, an extensive online resource established to promote and improve awareness, availability, and accessibility of information that can help people with disabilities. It serves individuals with disabilities through a multidisciplinary network of service providers and consumers, targeting their services and publications to libraries, disability organizations, independent living centers, rehabilitation facilities, educational institutions, and health and social service providers. The DRM WebWatcher maintains an extensive database of disability-related resources (links to Web sites, documents, databases, and other informational materials) in order to perform customized searches, including a page for victims of abuse who have disabilities

Chapter 15 Supplement References

Davis, L. August 1998. Understanding Mental Retardation: Training for Law Enforcement. Arlington, TX: The ARC of the United States.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 17 October 1999. Crime in the United States, Uniform Crime Reports, 1998. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Steinberg, M. A., J. R. Hylton, and C. E. Wheeler. 1998. Responding to Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities: A Trainer's Guide. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Tyiska, C. September 1998. "Working with Victims of Crime with Disabilities." Office for Victims of Crime Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.




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