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National Crime Victims' Rights Week: April 18-24, 2004 banner

Victims with Disabilities

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in response to the mandates of Public Law 105-301, the Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act (CVDAA), is working to develop the capability to measure crimes against people with disabilities. The Act requires the enhancement of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to collect these data.

Since 2000, BJS has initiated several activities to lay the foundation for developing such estimates. Consistent with the experience of other Federal agencies, there are a number of issues that must be addressed in order to design methodologies to meet the mandates of the legislation, including developing a reliable set of questions to identify people with developmental and other disabilities, and developing procedures to accommodate, as necessary, interviews with such people. BJS and the Census Bureau, which conducts NCVS interviewing, consulted and worked with staff from a number of Federal agencies to develop survey questions to identify people with disabilities.

In July 2000, BJS added to the NCVS Crime Incident Report a test of supplemental items designed to obtain information from victims of crime on any health conditions, impairments or disabilities affecting their everyday life. In fall 2001, BJS, together with the Census Bureau, fielded a test among a known developmentally disabled population in California to further test questions related to disability and to determine what types of interview techniques work best with different types of populations with disabilities.

Based on the results of the tests, BJS and Census developed a revised set of questions to address problems that were identified. The revised questions will be implemented into the NCVS in January 2004, and will be evaluated to determine whether they obtain reliable information. Once finalized, the questions will produce estimates of the fraction of victims who have disabilities. The survey will rely on population estimates from other sources to enable the production of victimization rates for people with disabilities.

People with developmental disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to be victims of crime than other people are. (Sobsey, D., D. Wells, R. Lucardie, and S. Mansell. 1995. Violence and Disability: An Annotated Bibliography. Baltimore, MD. Brookes Publishing.)

In a five-year retrospective study of 4,340 child patients with disabilities in a pediatric hospital, 68 percent were found to be victims of sexual abuse and 32 percent were victims of physical abuse. (Willging, J.P., C.M. Bower, and R.T. Cotton. 1992. “Physical Abuse of Children: A Retrospective Review and an Otolaryngology Perspective.” Archives of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery 118(6):584-590.)

More than 39,000 hospital records from 1982 to1992 were merged with social service, foster care and police records to identify cases of intrafamilial and extrafamilial maltreatment. More than 6,000 matches were made, with an overall maltreatment prevalence rate of 15 percent. Of the 15 percent of maltreated children, 64 percent had a disability, while only 32 percent of the non-maltreated children had a disability. (Sullivan, P.M., and J.F. Knutson. 1998. “The Association Between Child Maltreatment and Disabilities in a Hospital-based Epidemiological Study.” Child Abuse & Neglect 22(4):271-288.)

The National Rehabilitation Information Center estimates that as many as 50 percent of patients who are long-tern residents of hospitals and specialized rehabilitation centers are there due to crime-related injuries. In addition, it isestimated that at least 6 million serious injuries occur each year due to crime, resulting in either temporary or permanent disability. (Office for Victims of Crime Bulletin. 1998. Working with Victims of Crime with Disabilities. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.)

In a study of 946 women, 62 percent of women with and without disabilities reported that they had experience emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. However, women with disabilities reported experiencing their abuse for longer periods of time (3.9 vs. 2.5 years respectively). In addition to the types of abuse experienced by the entire group, women with disabilities specifically reported that their perpetrators sometimes withheld needed orthotic equipment (e.g., wheelchairs, braces), medications, transportation, or essential assistance with personal tasks such as dressing or getting out of bed. (Young, M.E., et all. 1997. Prevalence of Abuse of Women with Physical Disabilities. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Special Issue. 78 (12, Suppl. 5) S34-S38.) For more information visit, www.bcm.tmc.edu/crowd/national_study/national_study.html.

Sobsey and Doe estimate that more than half of abuse of people with disabilities is generally perpetrated by family members and peers with disabilities and that disability professionals (i.e., paid or unpaid caregivers, doctors, nurses) are generally believed responsible for the other half.

It is estimated that approximately 67 percent of perpetrators who abused individuals with severe cognitive disabilities accessed them through their work in disability services. (Sobsey, D., & Doe, T. 1991. “Patterns of sexual abuse and assault”. Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 9 (3), 243-259.)

Sixty-one percent of sexual assault survivors with disabilities who received counseling services at SafePlace in Austin, Texas between 1996-2002 reported multiple perpetrators of violence. Approximately 90 percent of the sexual violence perpetrators were not strangers to their victims. (SafePlace. 2003. Stop the Violence, Break the Silence. Austin, Texas.)

Note: Given the small size/scope of some of these studies, results cannot be extrapolated to the nation as a whole.

With funding from the Department of Justice (Office for Victims of Crime), SafePlace's Disability Services ASAP (A Safety Awareness Program), in Austin, Texas, has undertaken an exciting new national initiative, designed to promote accessible and sensitive services relevant to crime victims with disabilities. Through this initiative, SafePlace is working intensively with the following 10 victim assistance organizations from around the nation: The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, Tucson, AZ; The Chadwick Center for Children & Families at Children’s Hospital and Health Center, San Diego, CA; Ability 1st, Tallahassee, FL; Partnership Against Domestic Violence, Atlanta, GA; Carbondale Illinois Police Department, Carbondale, IL; The Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, Thidodaux, LA; Safe Passage, Northhampton, MA; Rape Crisis Center of Central Massachusetts, Worcester, MA; Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program, Kingston, NY; and the Network of Victim Assistance, Doylestown, PA. SafePlace is administering grant funding and providing expert training and technical assistance to the 10 organizations to foster innovative practices, principles and community partnerships for delivering accessible services to crime victims with a wide range of disabilities. Each of the 10 victim assistance organizations is tasked with conducting a community needs assessment and developing astrategic plan to determine the best way to help people with disabilities hurt by crime in their communities. Additionally, each organization is developing a programmatic evaluation plan to identify performance measures for determining progress and success. The organizations will implement their strategic plan during the second and third years of the project. This venture takes the lessons and achievements of SafePlace's model Disability Services program (begun in 1996) to communities across the country. For more information about the Disability Services ASAP project, visit http://www.safeplace.org/Page.aspx?pid=317.

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National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Victims' Rights: America's Values April 18–24, 2004
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