Ending Violence Against Women With Disabilities

Administered by: Bureau of Domestic and Sexual Violence Intervention in cooperation with several other groups.

Funded by the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). This proposal is a sexual assault systems change initiative designed to strengthen Illinois' service delivery system infrastructure in order to:

  1. reduce the extremely high incidence of sexual assault of women with disabilities,
  2. facilitate the identification of women with disabilities who have experienced sexual assault, and
  3. ensure that survivors of sexual assault are connected to timely, appropriate services.

Although the need to organize against violence toward women is widely recognized, most are unaware of violence against women with disabilities. Consider this: we know that people with disabilities are assaulted much more frequently than people who are not disabled. Women with disabilities are ten times more likely than women without disabilities to experience all types of physical and mental abuse including sexual violence and other unwanted sexual behavior. Some say that as many as nine out of ten women with developmental disabilities or who are deaf, are sexually assaulted. Protecting themselves from violence is a top priority.

In many instances disabled people are taught to comply. When they don't they are generally punished for speaking up for themselves or for challenging those in so-called authority. Women with disabilities are often thought of as non-sexual and may have received little or no sex education. Sometimes they don't know the difference between abusive behavior and normal or necessary familiarity. Rarely do the police and our judicial system consider them credible witnesses, particularly if they have trouble communicating. So when they do report abuse nobody believes them.

Partners with Community Health and Prevention include:

The project will create a statewide model for integrated community response to sexual assault of women with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, and mental illness. These women may live in residential settings, may receive services in their home through the Home Services Program, or may participate in day training programs provided through DD.

Project components include:

  • modification of the We CAN training curriculum to address the needs of women with a variety of disabilities;
  • utilization of peer training;
  • expansion of multi-disciplinary teams to include women with disabilities who are sexual assault survivors and are trained to provide peer support to women with disabilities who have experienced sexual assault;
  • education and cross-training of a wide range of provider staff;
  • development and implementation of a statewide sexual assault assessment tool;
  • development and implementation of a statewide sexual assault referral protocol, and collaboration with phone book publishers to add a listing of emergency phone numbers in the front of the book.