Considerations in caring for patients with developmental and/or physical disabilities

In December of 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report that found people with disabilities experience violent victimization, including sexual assault, at rates much higher than people without disabilities. According to this report, the rate of violence for men with disabilities was 42 per 1,000, compared to 22 per 1,000 for males without disabilities, and the rate for women with disabilities was 53 per 1,000 compared to 17 per 1,000 for women without disabilities. Despite the higher rates, survivors with disabilities are less likely to be engaged in traditional responses to sexual assault, including forensic exams, support services, criminal investigations, and prosecution, as the recent events in California have demonstrated. This training will explore the needs and barriers of survivors with disabilities, including complex issues such as consent and guardianship, and will provide concrete strategies first responders can use to create an accessible and welcoming experience for survivors with disabilities.  

Presented by Shirley Paceley and Nancy Smith, the goals of the training are three-fold: (1) to increase understanding of sexual violence against individuals with developmental and/or physical disabilities; (2) to gain an understanding of the specific needs and barriers to accessing supports and services survivors with disabilities face; (3) to learn strategies to create an accessible and welcoming experience for survivors with disabilities. To ensure everyone has the same framework for understanding disability, we will spend a few minutes providing a definition of disability, generally, and will then discuss developmental and physical disabilities, specifically. We will also provide a few basic principles pertaining to disability that inform our approach to this work (such as, “disability is ordinary” and “diagnosis does not predict ability.”). Next, we will provide an overview of sexual violence against people with disabilities. We will provide the latest statistics to ground everyone in the scope and magnitude of this problem and we will discuss the dynamics of this abuse (including who the perpetrators are, the tactics they use – such as grooming and playing on system weaknesses and societal devaluation of people with disabilities). We will then move into a discussion of needs and barriers. We will touch on a broad range of needs and barriers, focusing on those that are most important in each part of the system  (advocacy, criminal justice, medical, etc.). After a brief discussion of the barriers, we plan to spotlight two issues specifically: consent and guardianship. The last segment of the training will focus on practical things people can do to create access for survivors with disabilities. We will discuss the strategies along a few lines: physical, communication, and attitudinal.

The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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The Considerations in caring for patients with developmental and/or physical disabilities video is 1 hour and 23 minutes.

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