OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Expanding Services for Crime Victims with Disabilities
Marcie Davis, Shell Schwartz  -  2012/5/23
What is the possiblity of including adults with mental disabilities under "child," when the adult's mental capacity is that of a child for purposes of closed circuit testimony? We have found nothing in the federal statutes which allow this, nor is there any case law which supports it.
1.  Shell Schwartz
 Although disability law is outside my scope of work, I have a few suggestions. You might consider discussing this scenario with someone at your states Protection & Advocacy organization. Find out who to contact in your state on the National Disability Rights Network website at: http://www.protectionandadvocacy.com. Although the statutes that apply to minors do not apply to adults with disabilities, depending on the situation, the type of case, and whether the case is federal, state, local or county, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is likely to apply. Depending on the situation and case details, closed circuit testimony might be applicable as a disability related reasonable modification (http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm).
2.  Jaquel
 In Arizona they do not have closed circuit testimony for children in criminal cases. The child or victim is required to testify in front of the defendant. If they are not competent to testify, then there is often a witness or other kind of evidence to help with burden of proof(making these cases more difficult to prosecute). If an adult with a disability is a victim, there is a statute that increases the level of felony, due to the fact that they were vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. I am a victim advocate for felony cases (not an attorney).
3.  Marcie Davis
 That is definitely a sensitive issue from a variety of viewpoints. I am not an attorney; however, I would suggest speaking with a prosecutor or district attorney within your community. If you do not have a comfortable relationship with a local prosecutor or DA, I would then recommend contacting someone like Bob Laurino. I have worked with Bob over the years and his insights and recommendations have been so valuable. He has handled some very high profile sexual assault cases involving individuals with cognitive disabilities and his advice is superior. He is currently the Acting First Assistant Prosecutor for the Essex County New Jersey Prosecutors Office.
What are some ways that agencies can accommadate victims of sexual assualt?
1.  Shell Schwartz
 Balancing the Power: Creating a Crisis Center Accessible to People with Disabilities, specifically addresses this issue. Written with input and advice from people with disabilities, crisis workers, disability service staff and advocates, the manual is a step-by-step guide for domestic violence and sexual assault centers about collaborating with other agencies to better respond to and provide accessible services for survivors with disabilities. Topics include:An overview of mental illness and cognitive, sensory, and physical disabilities Tips and strategies for working with people with a variety of disabilities Adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act How to change agency policies and protocols that pose barriersSee: http://www.safeplace.org/page.aspx?pid=358
2.  Shell Schwartz
 Additional Resources: Increasing Access to Rape-Crisis, Sexual Assault Services to survivors with disabilities: The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) published (2010) a guide with practical information on supporting sexual assault survivors with disabilities. To review and download that resources go to: http://calcasa.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Survivors-with-Disabilities.pdf You can find additional information on the SafePlace website, including free fact sheets, frequently asked questions and manuals for purchase. http://www.safeplace.org/page.aspx?pid317
3.  Shell Schwartz
 2.Go slow in getting information out about the sexual abuseassault incident(s). Remember that many individuals with disabilities have extremely limited knowledge of private parts, sexual activity, and have been told not to talk about it. They may feel very embarrassed and uncomfortable. Address the issue of guilt. Individuals who lack information about the body and typical sexual contact may experience guilt or shame. Guilt is often compounded by misinformation from parents and others about the sexual abuse incident(s). 3.Involve parents, caregivers, partner, spouse, or family members if the survivor consents. They will need information about what to expect, how to help the individual with healing, and basic information about sexual abuse.
4.  Shell Schwartz
 1.Use concrete language. Ask who, what, or when questions. How and why questions may be more difficult to answer for a person with a cognitive disability. Individuals with cognitive disabilities are often limited in abstract thinking skills-it may work best to use pictures, drawings or dolls to demonstrate what you are talking about. Encourage the individual to ask questions. Ask if she or he understands and be sure that she or he is with you before moving on.
5.  Shell Schwartz
 c) What attitudinal barriers exist: Are staff welcoming, open and knowledgeable about working with people with all disabilities? Do they know who to call if they have questions? If you ask people with a range of disabilities to tour your agency, they can provide valuable feedback about physical barriers that may exist and strategies to make improvements. Programmatic accessibility may involve modifying rules, policies and forms to ensure better access to services. Attitudinal accessibility involves an organizational commitment to serve people with disabilities and focus on the how to serve rather than this is not something we do. Next are some tips for working with sexual assault survivors with cognitive disabilities:
6.  Shell Schwartz
 Each person with a disability is unique and will have unique skills, abilities, and needs for access to services. To be proactive, agencies can ask people with a range of disabilities to provide consultation on how to increase accessibility to persons with disabilities. Consider a) physical, b) programmatic and c) attitudinal accessibility. This means asking: a) what physical barriers exist to receive services for someone who is using a wheelchair, who is blind, who is Deaf, who uses a walker, etc.; b) what programmatic barriers exist: Example - Are lengthy and complicated intake forms difficult for people with cognitive disabilities or Deaf survivors, whose first language may be American Sign Language?
7.  Shell Schwartz
 A first priority in any agency is for staff to be welcoming in their attitude to any person seeking services. A second priority would be to ask the person if there is anything they need to make sure that they can participate in the full range of services offered by the agency. Work closely with the local hospital that provides forensic exams so that when accessibility needs are required, those services can be provided in a sensitive and effective way.
8.  Marcie Davis
 I would suggest you begin by reviewing your agencys services & identifying how each service is accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities. For example, how is your counseling program accessible? Do you provide interpreters? Is the space physically accessible for someone who uses a mobility device? If you conduct sexual assault examines, how accessible is the examination process? Think about physical accessibility into & throughout your facility but also think about programmatic accessibility. How is your staffs attitude toward individuals with disabilities? Consider the language they use to describe and to communicate with these clients & how programmatically accessible your agency is overall. Please feel free to contact me for more detailed info.
9.  Janine
 What is your definition of the word agencies? Is this a reference to law enforcement, or a broader range, i.e., group homes or AOAs? I think that the first thing is to believe the person coming to you after an assualt. Next, treat that person in much the same way as anyone else in this type of situation, i.e., don't talk down to the individual, speak directly to him or her. These are the most basic ways to be more responsive to people with disabilities.
Are there pro bono attys that specialize in helping victims with disabilities? How do I find one?
1.  Shell Schwartz
 You might also contact the following 3 organizations to explore the availability of pro bono services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. First, find out the state or local legal referral services. Those same bar associations may also have a referral service. The American Bar Association also has a list of referral services: http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory Second, contact your states Protection & Advocacy organization. Contact information is available on the National Disability Rights Network website at http://www.protectionandadvocacy.com And third, find out the closest legal aid group in your community, which provides services to people with limited income. See http://www.lsc.gov/find-legal-aid
2.  Shell Schwartz
 Each community is going to have different legal services, but there are at least four options for finding out about pro bono services for people with or without disabilities in your community. You can also contact your state or local bar association and ask the question. The American Bar Association has a list you can access at: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/bar_services/resources/state_local_bar_associations.html. You might also contact the following 3 organizations to explore the availability of pro bono services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
3.  Shell Schwartz
 Also, some Childrens Advocacy Centers will do forensic interviewing with adults with cognitive or developmental disabilities. You might consider contacting your childrens advocacy organization to see if this is a possibility in your area.
4.  Marcie Davis
 I would recommend contacting your county or states Legal Aid or Legal Assistance program. They should be able to work with you to identify any attorneys on their staff or within the community who might be able to provide pro bono services. You could also try contacting your states Bar Association. They should have a directory of attorneys and might have some local referrals for you.
I am a crime victim advocate working in a prosecutors office. What resources or information can I offer the parents of a non-verbal sexual assault victim with mental disabilities to assess whether their is emotion harm or damage and possible treatment? The Parents are worried that he may harm someone else the way he was harmed.They have reason to believe that he has the ability to recall memories of extreme events.
1.  Shell Schwartz
 If youd like more information about this board, please contact me at SafePlace (sschwartz@SafePlace.org). If the individual is referred to counseling, and the counselor could benefit from additional training and reference materials, the following may be helpful: 1. SafePlace has a fact sheet on working with survivors with cognitive disabilities: http://www.safeplace.org/document.doc?id=17 2. Counseling People with Developmental Disabilities Who Have Been Sexually Abused by Sheila Mansell and Dick Sobsey. Counseling Adults with Mental Retardation a Procedures and Training Manual by Larry Jageman and Jane Myers. Both are available for loan through SafePlace's Lending Library.
2.  Shell Schwartz
 Your local sexual assault center may not have counselors with experience working with people with cognitive disabilities. They may want to partner with the pertinent disability services agency in their community for insights, such as The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy, etc. Another resource for the parents may be a communication board that uses the Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) System. If the individual has limited or no verbal communication, the parents may already be familiar with this support. SafePlace has developed a board using this system that facilitates communication regarding abuse and safety issues. In a situation like this, this kind of tool may be helpful to support the individual to have communication with loved ones, advocates, prosecutors and counselors.
3.  Shell Schwartz
 The parents are right to be concerned that their son, like any other survivor of sexual assault, may very well have emotional repercussions from his sexual assault. The fact that he cannot speak about the incident(s) does not mean that he cannot process it and heal through other means. It may be helpful for the parents to watch for behavioral changes as this can be an indicator of distress surrounding the trauma. Counselors have successfully worked with sexual assault survivors with cognitive disabilities by using pictures, art and other creative strategies. Contact your local sexual assault center or, if you do not know the nearest center, contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network for that information, http://www.rainn.org.
4.  Marcie Davis
 Is this individual currently working with an appropriately trained counselor who can provide sexual assault counseling services to him? If not, that would be my first recommendation. Just because an individual is non-verbal, does not mean he or she can not receive sexual assault counseling services. There are other ways that trained professionals can establish a non-verbal communication system. However, it has to be someone who has the skills to provide services to this individual. You want to make sure the individual is treated respectfully and appropriately. Otherwise, he can lose trust and be even further victimized.
I am interested in hearing your ideas about what further services for crime victims with disabilities are needed and how they should be paid for.
1.  James
 Stalking, harassment, domestic abuse and human trafficking victims may often experience damages as a result of crimes that disables them from the ability to meet their most basic needs. Victims of these crimes, and especially those victimized by organized groups, may be prevented from accessing housing, employment, services and other vital relationships as the proximate cause of the intended criminal acts (e.g. intent to destroy lives and enslave). These victims are also stigmatized by society because of their new found dire situation. The stigma placed on victims because of their hardship, coupled with the direct ongoing interferences and infringments by the pertetrators create a very real disability.
2.  Shell Schwartz
 U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Justice Programs, grant opportunities: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/funding/solicitations.htm U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, grant opportunities: http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/open-solicitations.htm U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, grant opportunities: http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/Solicitation.aspx U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, grant opportunities: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants and SAMHSA, grant opportunities: http://www.samhsa.gov/grants
3.  Shell Schwartz
 We have also noted some funds have become available through local, statewide (e.g., Developmental Disabilities Councils) and national private foundations and agencies. Some of these funding resources have included:(continued...)
4.  Shell Schwartz
 The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) that is hosting this Web Forum as well as the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has funded grants around the country to connect rape and domestic violence centers with law enforcement and disability service agencies in their communities. The models that have been developed through these grants has helped ensure that disability service staff were aware of and more responsive to the high incidence of crimes against people with disabilities and that rape crisis and domestic violence agencies and law enforcement increased their optionsskills for working with crime victims with disabilities. Many of the resources developed have been adapted and duplicated in communities across the U.S.
5.  Marcie Davis
 Crime victims with disabilities should have the same access as every other individual that you serve. And, as with any service we need to provide, we have to pursue and maintain funding. In order to make systemic change, we need to integrate serving crime victims with disabilities into every aspect of our program both administratively and budgetary. It needs to be the norm and not something special. I began by pursuing grant funding to develop programs and training specific to individuals with disabilities. These grant funds enabled us to develop programs, purchase equipment, and develop materials. I then sought more permanent funds through our state budgets and legislative appropriations. Now, it is a part of our regular budget and thought process.
Are there any primary prevention or awareness resources available that target young adults adults who have cognitive disabilities?
1.  Gabrielle Gault
 I would be very interested in being able to connect around these resources. Please let me know the best way to do that.Thanks!
2.  Marcie Davis
 Yes, there are quite a few materials that have been developed. Through the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women grants, there are multiple grantees that have developed very useful tools. You might contact Amy Loder at OVW or their technical assistance provider, The Vera Institute, to see if you can access some of those materials. One of my favorite resources that targets young adults and adults with cognitive disabilities that we have used is Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries and Sexuality by Terri Couwenhoven. We also recently developed, in partnership with Dr. Scott Modell, practical prevention tools for Parents, Law Enforcement, and for Educators that I would be happy to share with you.
Securing accessible housing and PA services for disabled clients is always a challenge, whether they are crime victims or not. Given the immediacy of the need for crime victims, how has your organization successfully dealt with this significant barrier?
1.  Shell Schwartz
 Continued. Another strategy that SafePlace has used is to establish a relationship with the Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas (PACT). We have partnered, informally, to establish relationships by offering training and support around the issue of violence for their membership. At the same time, we have leadership from PACT who serve on our volunteer programs Advisory Committee. The reciprocal nature of this relationship has continued to increase and has benefitted both agencies and many abuse survivors throughout our community. If youd like to know more about this partnership, please contact me by email at sschwartz@SafePlace.org or by phone 512.267.7233.
2.  Shell Schwartz
 ...continued. Establishing and maintaining these relationships may eventually lead to the recruitment of volunteer or low-cost attendant services that can be accessed in a time of urgent need.SafePlace also operates a supportive housing program here in Austin. We support survivors served through our agency to access this resource and, of course, to have their attendant services accessible to them despite a need for high security. Our transitional housing program was designed with unitsapartments that are physically accessible with the intention of serving individuals with a range of disabilities. For more information about housing for people with disabilities, take a look at this link: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/information_for_disabled_persons
3.  Shell Schwartz
 One way that SafePlace has addressed this need is to allow survivors who are accessing our emergency shelter to have their Personal Attendant service provider come to the shelter. We have incorporated a confidentiality release into the process so that the attendant can come and go to provide the services as needed. We have, at times, also partnered with Adult Protective Services in our area to put an emergency caregiver in place if the survivors abuser was their attendant. One option that is also available is to establish relationships with your local disability service providers (including attendant care agencies) to develop an emergency plan for survivors who need attendant care.
4.  Marcie Davis
 Yes, housing is a tremendous need. We have actually partnered with our local housing organizations. We built a relationship with them by serving on committees and supporting their initiatives. As we built the trust between our organizations, we then began working with them on specific grant applications to develop and to support housing opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We were able to begin a long-term dialogue that meets both their agencys needs and the needs of the individuals with disabilities that we serve. Now, we can contact them directly for assistance and they know they can count on us when they have a need that arises.
Can you recommend any decent safety planning tools for assisting victims with cognitive disabilities that live independently in the community?
1.  Shell Schwartz
 The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a detailed guide that focuses specifically on safety planning with individuals with cognitive disabilities. You can download the guide on their website at: http://www.wcadv.org/safety-planning-guide-individuals-cognitive-disabilities SafePlace offers several one-and two page fact sheets free of charge on safety planning for explosive events and when planning to leave an abusive situation. You can download an order form at: www.SafePlace.org/DisabilityServices
2.  Marcie Davis
 One of my favorite resources that targets young adults and adults with cognitive disabilities that we have used to develop safety training materials is Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries and Sexuality by Terri Couwenhoven. We also recently developed, in partnership with Dr. Scott Modell, practical prevention tools for Parents and Educators that I would be happy to share with you.
Are there any training and/or certification programs that are specific to servicing disabled victims?
1.  Julieanne
 Great! Thank you very much!
2.  Marcie Davis
 The first training that comes to mind is through the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center. They recently developed a three day curriculum specific to crime victims with disabilities. You can also request specific training through TTACs customized training programs. I would definitely recommend contacting them. Also, I would recommend contacting your states Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence Coalition to see if they are offering any trainings regarding how to serve individuals with disabilities who are victims of crime.
What are your suggestions for convincing administrators that servicing disabled victims is not identical to servicing their non-disabled counterparts?
1.  Marcie Davis
 I would also try to help your administrator to garner some public praise or recognition for your efforts. It can be challenging to change someone biases & perceptions. In some situations personal experiences, peer pressure or political pressure are often times the only things that can truly make a switch. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further.
2.  Marcie Davis
 I would also suggest building a network of support by partnering with other leaders in your area to bolster your efforts. For example, explore who is doing this type of work in your community & begin to partner with them on committees, grant applications, or other areas where your agencys missions are compatible. The more relationships & support you can generate both internally and externally, the greater the chance to create systemic change. (continued)
3.  Marcie Davis
 In my opinion, the greatest barrier for victims with disabilities is attitude. Having to convince an administrator that there is a difference & a need is unfortunate. However, please dont give up. I have had this experience in the past & persistence is key. The more you can educate them about the specific needs of individuals the better but, sometimes it is difficult to achieve when they are not interested. I would try to expose them to individuals with disabilities. For example, invite someone with a disability to serve on a committee or to become a volunteer. Once they have a chance to personally know someone that can impact their personal experiences and biases. (continued)
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