The replication project design required us to tie our strategic design directly back to the needs assessment. This was very helpful in providing clarity: We were developing a local plan to address the barriers identified with victims, completely in keeping with DAIP’s guiding principle of basing our work on the lived experiences of battered women.
Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Duluth, Minnesota
Finally the time comes, and you arrive at the very doorstep of change. You have developed a collaborative partnership or an advisory committee to share the work. You have an understanding of the needs of crime victims with disabilities and how to better reach them with your services. You’ve discovered where partners are strong and where they can improve. And the partnerships have created an ambitious but workable plan for change. Now it’s time to take action.
Avoid documenting disabilities. The reasons not to label a survivor are many. Diagnostic labels should only be given by a licensed professional. Simply because a survivor discloses a specific disability does not mean that the diagnosis is accurate. Further, case files can be subpoenaed. Because our society still has great strides to make in civil rights for persons with disabilities, documenting a disability (whether it is accurate or not) could jeopardize the person in a custody hearing or make her or him lose credibility as a victim in a criminal case.
The only exception is when descriptions of a person’s disability can help staff provide services. For example: “Mary will be accompanied by her service animal. Staff should refrain from petting and distracting the animal.” “John has asked that an interpreter be provided at the meeting.”
The work involved in meeting this goal is dynamic and requires commitment. Ideally, each partnering agency will—
- Assess its own accessibility.
- Address any barriers that stop persons with disabilities from receiving effective services.
- Share information about safety, healthy relationships, and relevant community services for persons with disabilities.
- Train staff in domestic violence/sexual assault agencies, disability service organizations, court systems, law enforcement agencies, and emergency departments (including sexual assault nurse examiners).
It’s a very tall order. But whether you tackle everything at once or break it into smaller goals, by taking the steps listed above, you’ve already laid the groundwork to make your plan succeed.
Step 4 involves the following tasks:
- Make victim services accessible.
- Reach out to persons with disabilities.
- Educate the public.
- Train stakeholders.