Victims with Disabilities matter to DVI
Providing services to victims living with disabilities, in the state of Colorado, is critical to their safety and survival needs. Did you know according to the United States Census Bureau and the American Community Survey estimates that, within the Denver Metropolitan Statistical Area which is defined as cities of Denver, Aurora, and Broomfield, there are 210,618 individuals, age 16 and above, of the non-institutionalized population, living with disabilities (American Community Survey 2009-2011 3-year estimates)? Were you aware that, in the state of Colorado, it is estimated that only 28% of individuals, living with disabilities, are members of the labor force (American Community Survey, 2009-2011 3-year estimates)?
Many victims of the Disability community never report their crime. A survey conducted in Tucson, Arizona, in response to patterns of victimization, reported when abused survivors chose to report their victimization, it was most often to friends (58 percent) or family members (54 percent), rather than adult protective services, law enforcement, or a social service agency (OVC, 2012).Victimization by violence is significantly under- reported to the police for fear of not being believed, not being heard, being judged, retaliation by the abusive caregiver or that the offender will not be arrested. It is also widely presumed that people with disabilities are less likely to report crimes of violence if the perpetrators were someone the victim depended on for care and other necessary services (Tyiska, 1998).
This compounding of fear, victimization and long-term residual trauma requires a collaborative, culturally sensitive, and trauma-informed intervention that addresses the multiple issues that survivors face in order to both facilitate healing and encourage survivors to access services. Victims living with disabilities face re-victimization every day. There is stigma associated with their disabilities. Dr. Robert J. Mittan, Ph.D, wrote in an article that, “people remain vaguely uncomfortable around a wheelchair, people are avoidant of behavior that seems unpredictable, and people can be frightened of the sudden loss of control from a seizure” (Mittan,2010). Without the appropriate assessment, services, and advocacy, the cycle of violence and victimization will prove to become lifelong and the victim will experience longer durations of abuse (Nosek, et al, 1997). It is insufficient to address and assess the act of violence on an individual living with a disability without addressing, assessing, and identifying the specific needs of this individual.
The Victim Services Network (VSN) of Denver, Colorado must continue to have conversations that positively affect, influence, and impact victims of the disability community. DVI would encourage victim service providers in the state of Colorado to revisit your agency policies and procedures to ensure that your agency is make the necessary reasonable accommodations.
Jane is a 34 year old woman from Boulder, who is homeless and is in midst of crisis and she shows diligence and positive attitude towards her finding a way to survive and thrive. Jane was severely attacked by her boyfriend and she is determined to not to return to her relationship. She has made a police report, had him arrested and obtained herself a protection order. Jane has multiple disabilities, which many of DVI’s clients do. Jane has back, neck, foot injury, and eye injury that has caused blindness in her right eye and traumatic brain injury from her domestic violence situation, also has stage 4 osteoarthritis, asthma, chronic migraine headaches, sleep apnea and sleep dyspnea, fibromyalgia, anxiety, bi-polar, panic disorder and PTSD. She was currently at Boulder shelter, when she has called DVI for help. After meeting with Jane, we assisted her with food and hygiene products, filling out victim compensation application, helped her find low income housing and relocated her to a different city for her safety and assisted her with rent. We created an Action Plan Folder for her with list of emergency shelter numbers, victim’s rights, where she can get sliding scale counseling, a notebook and a pen. Discussed how to keep her organized so that she can take advantage of all the resources that are available to her. We worked with this client for 2 months, and we received a thank you note saying “Thank you for helping me get into a safe new home. This means the world to me and thank you for all that you did for me.”
*Domestic Violence Initiative (DVI) is a non-profit agency, established in 1985, dedicated to the survival and safety of Colorado’s women, men, and children with disabilities who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, caregiver abuse, elder abuse and stalking. Through comprehensive case management, client advocacy, empowerment, and collaborative community outreach, DVI provides crime victims with disabilities and their children with tools for self-sufficiency that supports safe and fulfilling lives free of violence and abuse. Prior to the establishment of DVI, no other agency provided services for victims who have a disability or for people who become disabled due to their victimization. DVI is one of a few agencies in the region addressing the complicated issues of crime against people with disabilities. Visit their website HERE.