Identify Potential Partners
Consider which groups and people are already involved or have a stake in improving your community response to crime victims with disabilities. First on that list would be persons with a range of disabilities, followed by family members and representatives from organizations such as disability services, law enforcement, victim services (including domestic violence and rape crisis agencies), court systems, and hospitals that conduct forensic sexual assault exams.
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: To improve services for victims with disabilities, persons with disabilities need to be at the table sharing their insight and experiences.
- People with whom you already have a working relationship as well as people from unfamiliar organizations.
- People who can make changes in their organizations, such as managers and executive directors, and people who have an impact on other segments of the community, such as those who are involved in or who lead relevant community groups and committees.
- People who receive victim and disability services (or who have in the past) and people who provide those services.
- People who support this work, those who are neutral, and—strategically—people who could derail your efforts if not brought on board.
The pilot sites began by seeking out new alliances and strengthening old ones, but each approached the task differently, depending on the strength and diversity of its existing networks:
In considering potential partners, seek to reflect your own community’s diversity. As much as possible, include people who vary in age, disability, background, gender, income level, culture, and ethnicity.
- Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs—known for developing the multidisciplinary Duluth Model as a tool against domestic violence—mined many of its existing networks and partners but expanded its work to include persons with disabilities and disability service organizations.
- Family Crisis Services—which provides services over a large area that includes urban, suburban, and rural communities—took advantage of its strong existing relationships with two police departments. It also stretched itself to bring in a Deaf services organization, young adults with intellectual disabilities, and a center for independent living.
- Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio—which works with 10 local emergency departments and already had a strong working relationship with a Deaf victim services group—developed a large and diverse group of project partners. As is typical with any community effort, network staff found that a smaller group of six or seven partners was able to work more effectively on the project.
Allow various options for participating. Advisory committee members or partners who are not able to attend every meeting—or even very many meetings—may still be able to contribute resources and ideas by e-mail or phone.
Before approaching potential partners, know why the issue of crime against persons with disabilities affects them, recognize the impacts they can have, and understand some of the barriers in the community. Arm yourself with information so that you can speak clearly about the issues and the steps your community might take.
The pilot sites found their collaborative partners and advisory committee members from the following groups:
- A multidisciplinary team that included members from county and city criminal justice and law enforcement offices, a domestic violence center, a faith-based organization, and the department of corrections.
- State victim service coalitions.
It also can be useful to include parents and family members of persons with disabilities as your partners and advisory committee members.
Plan to discuss a tentative meeting schedule (e.g., biweekly, monthly, or quarterly), the types of input and experience you are looking for, and the goals you are trying to accomplish. Then, after you have made a list of potential partners, you are ready to begin recruiting through individual meetings or phone calls.