Despite a high rate of crime against people with disabilities, many victim assistance agencies report that they rarely serve persons from this population. Does this suggest that people with disabilities are unaware of victim services, or that the services available to them are inaccessible? Are law enforcement officers and victim service advocates being trained to recognize the needs of crime victims with disabilities, or to provide accommodations for them? What conditions prevent persons with disabilities from reporting a crime or accessing victim services?
The answers to these questions are complicated. Some people with disabilities, their caregivers, and their families do not report crimes or access victim services because they are not familiar with the agencies that can help them. Others are intimidated by the paperwork or processes involved in reporting a crime, which may include concerns about inaccessible buildings and communication or concerns about dealing with law enforcement and victim advocates based on past experience. Many fear the consequences of publicizing the incident, such as losing a needed attendant, being blamed or criticized by loved ones, or being threatened by the abuser. Some simply don’t understand or recognize that what they have experienced is actually a crime.
Likewise, law enforcement officials and victim service professionals may have limited experience in serving crime victims with disabilities, and therefore may not understand how to provide appropriate support. Many first responders still have not received disability-specific training in the areas of crisis intervention, forensic interviewing, and accommodations.
This toolkit identifies and addresses the issues and obstacles encountered by people with disabilities who have been victimized or abused. The information provided in this resource and the companion bulletin is intended to function as a guide for organizations seeking to improve their capacity to respond to crime victims with disabilities.