Consider How Your Organization is Currently Serving Survivors with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities and Their Loved Ones
That people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely to become victims of sexual abuse and assault is a terrible reality. In 2009, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs released a First National Study on Crime Against Persons with Disabilities. It noted that people with disabilities between the ages of 12-19 and 35-49 reported experiencing violence at nearly twice the rates of people without disabilities in those same age groups. It may be harder for these victims to understand what is happening, to recognize that these actions are criminal, or to communicate with a trusted person about the incident.
We also know that navigating the complex disclosure process is already a very challenging experience for secondary victims -- parents and loved ones of survivors. These secondary victims are thrust into situations they could have never predicted or imagined – law enforcement interviews, forensic exams, legal actions, and the list continues on. The difficulty communicating about the sexual assault with their loved ones who have intellectual/developmental disabilities can create an overwhelming barrage of feelings, thoughts, and actions for parents, guardians, caretakers, and others in survivors’ networks. As victim service providers, we must be prepared to not only recognize and respond to all victims, but also provide services for the loved ones who are experiencing their own traumas.
One of FCASV’s Facebook followers courageously reached out to us so we could share her story with others. This is an excerpt of her experiences after she found out that her 18-year-old daughter who has intellectual and developmental disabilities was sexually assaulted.
“I was a mother raising a child who was overcoming Intellectual/Developmental disabilities along with several other health issues. My focus was her best health, that she be given experiences to assist her growth, to keep her safe in the community, and to push for her independence. The last thing on my mind was someone close to our family, actually in our home, would sexually assault her. Even though she was 18 years of age, there were some days that I was still trying to teach her some basic toddler skills. I had not gotten to sex education yet. I was not at all ready and my mind was not prepared for what I would be forced to cope through.”
“I needed help. I desperately wanted guidance! I was a parent in shock, in excruciating pain of my own, feeling like I already failed to protect my child, and unprepared for how to explain adult concepts and the type of testing that would be required.”
These heart-felt words provide a short glimpse into the feelings a parent of a child with intellectual/developmental disabilities experiences in the aftermath of a sexual assault disclosure.
We have compiled a list of some recommendations for victim service providers on enhancing efforts for this population of survivors and their loved ones.
• Create and update an Americans Disability Act (ADA) compliance plan that addresses these vulnerable populations.
• Include ADA compliance training for all staff as part of their onboarding as well as annual training.
• Practice role-playing scenarios to address how you would serve both the primary victims who have intellectual/developmental disabilities and their loved ones.
• Engage local disability advocacy/provider groups to provide cross training to staff.
• Consider your current intake practices and whether they need to be modified or adapted to better address these populations.
• Create a community needs assessment to determine specific needs for primary and secondary survivors in your community.
• Ask local disability advocacy/provider groups to join a local task force or your community’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).
• Recruit and enlist feedback from primary and secondary survivors on the services provided.
• Apply for grants and propose projects to address this population.
• Include the costs of accommodations in annual budgets.
• Learn how to address confidentiality differences with this population.
• Recruit and train volunteers and staff living with disabilities to build internal expertise at your agency.
We know that service providers want to, and try to, offer the same level of services to all survivors of sexual violence, but often struggle to do so. For example, a national survey conducted by SafePlace in 2004, found that only 9 percent of rape crisis and domestic violence agencies reported having a line item in their annual budget for accessibility needs or accommodations. By recognizing these barriers, you can begin creating protocols to ameliorate them, and ensure all survivors are receiving the same vital services.
NCVS (2009). Rand, M., and Harrell, E. (2007). Crime Against People with Disabilities, 2007 (NCJ 227814). The report can be found at https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/capd07.pdf
Schwartz, M., Abramson, W., and Kamper (2004). A national survey on the accessibility of domestic violence and sexual assault services to women with disabilities [unpublished data]. SafePlace: Austin, Texas.
Center Highlight: The Women's Center, Sexual Assault Victim Services
The Women’s Center has been serving male and female victims in Brevard County for over forty years, so we were very excited when presented with the opportunity to become the Brevard County Certified Rape Crisis Center last year. We achieved certification in March 2017, and our Sexual Assault Victim Services Program has become one of the many ways The Women’s Center continues to help victims become survivors every day in our community. Brevard is the largest county in Florida, so it is an added benefit that we have office locations in both Melbourne and Titusville to serve clients in the northern and central parts of the county. We offer on-site counseling and free support groups, including weekly groups for female victims of sexual assault. The Women’s Center provides advocacy to all victims including: sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking. We provide transitional safe housing for homeless women and their children, 24 hour domestic violence and sexual assault helplines, emergency shelter for victims, and assistance with basic needs. The Women’s Center is also home to The Green Dot Project, which is an anti-violence campaign focused on decreasing violence on college campuses. In addition to becoming certified as a Rape Crisis Center this year, our agency recently became certified to assist clients in applying for Victim Relocation and Victim Compensation funds. The Women’s Center looks forward to working collaboratively with our community partners, and other Sexual Assault programs throughout Florida to enhance and expand the services offered to all victims of interpersonal violence.
FCASV's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Training Program
FCASV’s SANE trainer of many years, Terri Augspurger, accepted a full time job with the Department of Defense in June and is no longer able to commit to conducting training for us. All who attended her trainings - nurses, law enforcement officers, advocates, and many others learned and benefitted from her extensive knowledge and expertise.
We remain committed to maintaining the quality of our International Association for Forensic Nurses (IAFN)-approved training curriculum, meeting all IAFN requirements, and providing an exceptional training experience for participants. FCASV’s conversations with IAFN’s Chief Operating Officer, Jennifer Pierce-Weeks, RN, SANE-A/P, and the IAFN’s 2015 SANE Education Guidelines have provided benchmarks for us in continuing to meet SANE training requirements, while planning for the future.
In February of this year, FCASV hired Kris-Tena Albers, ARNP, MN as Director of the SANE Training and Sustainability Program. Kris practiced as an ARNP / Certified Nurse Midwife for 14 years in Tallahassee, attending to thousands of women for well women care, and delivering approximately 2,500 babies. Kris has an additional 12 years of experience in public health program development, health policy development and implementation, training, and administration. She became SANE trained in March by taking IAFN’s online course; attended FCASV’s 40-hour SANE training in May – conducted by Ms. Augspurger; and will conduct sexual assault forensic exams in Tallahassee. She is currently working to meet SANE-A certification requirements and expects to sit for the certification exam in April of 2018. Until she is SANE-A certified, FCASV’s trainings will be conducted by contracted SANE-As, in collaboration with Kris.
FCASV will continue providing quality IAFN-approved SANE training to enhance the profession, meet the needs of practicing SANEs, and ensure that survivors have access to forensic exams conducted by qualified examiners. If you have any questions about this transition, please email Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get to Know FCASV
Renée Cox (Franklin), Operations & Events Manager
Renée has been employed with FCASV for over 15 years. Within those years, she has served in several positions within the agency including office manager, finance manager, contracts manager, and events manager. Currently, Renée manages FCASV’s day-to-day office operations and plans the hotel and travel logistics for all of FCASV’s staff and special events. She also assists the Director of Finance and Accounting in reconciling all travel reimbursements. She has a B.A. degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management. Renée enjoys bowling, fishing, movies, a good laugh and spending time with her husband, family, and friends.
Upcoming Events and Trainings
FCASV Legal: Live, Walk-In, Intake Hours
August 24, 2017
For more information, visit fcasv.org.
40-Hour SANE Training
October 30-November 3, 2017
Winter Haven, FL
For more information about the training and to register, visit fcasv.org.
Save the Date: 40-Hour SANE Training
June 11-15, 2018
Check fcasv.org for updates with more information about this training.
This project was supported by subgrant No. COHK4 awarded by the state administering office for the STOP Formula Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.