Develop a Tracking System
The pilot sites set up systems with their partners to track the number of crimes committed against persons with disabilities in their communities. To do so, they started by developing internal tracking systems. Typically, this means modifying your current intake forms, hotline questionnaires, or client evaluation surveys to add a question about disability status. Remember: Answers to these questions must not affect eligibility for services.
Once the sites developed internal tracking systems, they shared them with their community partners and discussed how those partners could begin tracking the number of crime victims with disabilities served by their own agencies.
At the beginning of the project, the sites combined had a baseline of 23 reports of crime for the previous year. After putting tracking plans in place, the sites and their partners reported 1,380 crimes in 1 year. Community partners included rape crisis and domestic violence centers, a family justice center, a center for independent living, a protection and advocacy agency, three police departments, and a justice league.
Tracking mirrored the particular makeup of each community. Because the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) is part of a hospital network, for example, its tracking system largely focused on its own rape crisis staff and hospital sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) as well as other project partners. Family Crisis Services (FCS), on the other hand, worked with its core police partners to track crimes using a database form.
Because each agency and each community are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all tracking plan. You will need to develop a plan that fits your own particular partners and community.
The following tips and examples may help you begin your own tracking plan.
- Take it one step at a time. SARNCO developed its tracking system in several stages:
- SARNCO first amended its own data tracking forms to ask all people served by the agency if they had a disability. This internal tracking plan included counting sexual assault survivors with disabilities who received long-term advocacy services, hospital advocacy services, and helpline advocacy services.
- Next, SARNCO approached its partners—area hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and the prosecutor’s office—about developing their own tracking systems.
- The site also worked with SANE coordinators at all four Ohio Health Hospitals to develop and implement a data tracking plan.
- Finally, it extended this plan to reach out to all SANE programs at area hospitals. This information is now being tracked as part of SARNCO’s citywide hospital data.
- Determine how you will protect the confidentiality of each person being tracked.
- Avoid duplication. Without compromising confidentiality, develop a tracking system that helps partner agencies, or even different programs in your agency, to avoid counting the same crime victims more than once. FCS avoided duplication, for example, by tracking crime victims by gender, date of birth, and town.
- Keep safety at the forefront. FCS initially consulted with two local police departments about tracking disabilities of crime victims on police reports. However, the group discussed a growing concern that the information might later be used against victims of violence with disabilities in child custody or other legal cases. Because of these safety concerns, the group decided not to track disabilities on police reports, knowing that it would mean that it would not be able to count all the crime victims with disabilities in the community. Instead, the FCS tracking system involved—
- Adding a data cell in its database to track persons with disabilities receiving its services.
- Training direct service staff and volunteers in the domestic violence shelter and at the hotline on how and why to ask questions about disability.
- Asking the victims if they have disabilities when making the usual followup calls on all police reports of domestic violence to see if further services are needed.
When it comes to tracking, aim for progress instead of perfection. Staff from all three pilot sites understood that even with their outreach efforts, not all persons with disabilities will report crimes, and many will report crimes but not identify themselves as having a disability. Remember that the first goal is to begin counting a population that traditionally has not sought victim services.