Culturally Specific Practices
This section reviews
Disabilities and Aging ProgramWisconsin
The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault's Disabilities and Aging Program is one of four project partners on the Violence Against Women with Disabilities grant awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women. This grant focuses on cross training sexual assault and domestic violence service providers and service providers from the disability network. The project staff developed a cross training manual and provided six extensive daylong trainings. An accessibility guide was also developed and the project partners will provide onsite accessibility reviews to three sexual assault and/or domestic violence programs in the state.
The project supports and enhances collaborative strategies for addressing violence against women with disabilities. The strategies employed are designed to increase collaboration, foster skills enhancement, and ensure response capacity.
Making the Idea a Reality
The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault's (WCASA) Disabilities and Aging Program began in 1997. Since then, the program has grown exponentially, receiving three major grants and full-time staff dedication. WCASA has an extensive library that includes books, videos, curricula, and journals on sexual assault and people with disabilities and older individuals.
The Disabilities and Aging Program focuses on how systems work throughout Wisconsin. For example, WCASA worked on legislative measures to modernize the Adult Protective Services program and to create a useful "vulnerable adult" restraining order. In collaboration with experts around the state, recommendations regarding best practices for preventing and responding to abuse in facility settings were created and submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. In addition, WCASA participated in a committee that created protocols for dealing with abuse by noncaregivers in facility settings, taking into account issues of self-determination versus protection.
A major component of the Disability and Aging Program is providing technical assistance and training to any person or organization that requests it. WCASA trainings have reached a wide variety of audiences including sexual assault service provider agencies, coordinated community response teams, medical staff, Adult Protective Services personnel, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and other people in the disability/aging network. These trainings have ranged from providing general information on sexual assault and people with disabilities or older adults to much more specific trainings (e.g., looking at how policies and laws affect sexual assault victims who are older or who have disabilities). WCASA staff have also provided training on other topics such as abuse against people with physical disabilities on campus, healthy sexuality and sexual assault prevention for people with cognitive disabilities, sexual assault and sexuality issues for people with Alzheimer's disease or related dementia, and sexual assault and people with mental illness.
WCASA is the lead agency on a training grant to stop abuse and sexual assault against older individuals. This grant, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, focuses on training law enforcement to improve its investigation and interviewing strategies in cases involving older victims of sexual or domestic violence. A model protocol for law enforcement was drafted to accompany several regional trainings. WCASA trained a range of service providers in six regions around the state, including
WCASA had a difficult time improving accessibility within service provider agencies. In hindsight, survivors' voices need to be included from the start. In the planning stages, WCASA drew from information from service providers and the literature rather than from the voices of survivors with disabilities.
Collaboration has not been without conflict. However, by keeping victims' safety as the primary focus, being open to multiple possibilities, and trying to take a multidimensional view of each other's perspectives, the conflicts diminished.
Despite the challenges, there have been successes. One important achievement has been a collaborative effort that resulted in changed policies and laws that better serve older victims and victims with disabilities. Another major accomplishment includes community-based organizations' efforts to initiate prevention and education efforts within their existing budgets.
Feedback from trainings has been overwhelmingly positive, which should open more doors.
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Disabilities and Aging Program
600 Williamson Street, Suite N2
Madison, WI 53703
Task Forces for Inreach to Vulnerable PopulationsLouisiana
In 2005, the New Orleans Rape Crisis Network SART recognized the need to involve representatives from populations most vulnerable to sexual violence. The SART identified task force representatives from vulnerable populations that included older individuals, individuals with disabilities, college students, and representatives from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.
This project espouses the motto of "Nothing about us without us." In other words, the SART includes the individuals it serves in the planning process. The team also recognizes that vulnerable populations may not have access to or knowledge of available services, or that they may choose not to use the services.
Making the Idea a Reality
The SART identified task force "champions" in vulnerable populations and invited them to join the SART with the goals of providing representation on the SART and inreach into their communities.
Benefits to Victims
Underserved populations directly benefit because they are involved in planning services tailored to meet their needs. The task force also works to prevent sexual violence against members of vulnerable communities. For example, representatives on the task force provide prevention education and education about SART services within culturally specific and underserved communities.
Benefits to Victim Service Professionals
The task force helps service professionals learn about and better meet the needs of people from diverse populations.
Qualitative feedback has been very positive. The SART has planned many successful educational events and has made many connections in various communities. No formal evaluation efforts have been conducted, however.
Many lessons have been learned, but the main lesson is that we cannot know everything.
The SAFE Center opened in April 2005. In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck, destroying the city and its infrastructure (medical, law enforcement, communication services, legal services, housing, advocacy, safe havens). In early September, members of the Rape Crisis Network began to rebuild. Having representatives in communities with vulnerable populations has proven invaluable in reconnecting to the community and providing public awareness of the services we provide.
Ecoee Rooney, RN, MSN, SANE–A
SANE Program Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans
Rape Crisis Network Chairperson
RN Inservice Instructor, Education/Staff Development
1541 Tulane Avenue, Room 402
New Orleans, LA 70112