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July 2021 | Volume 14 | Issue 7

People with cognitive disabilities are 2.5 times more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime. In 2017, The Vera Institute Center on Victimization and Safety received a three-year grant award from the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to update and expand the field’s resources on crimes against people with disabilities. The resources developed under this grant included techniques for first responders called to help victims who have disabilities and forensic techniques for interviewing victims with communication or cognitive disabilities. Organizational partners on the project included the National Sheriffs’ Association, National Children’s Advocacy Center, The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice, and the National Center for Victims of Crime.

In September 2018, the Center on Victimization and Safety and its partners hosted virtual design meetings to determine the vision, intended audiences, values to be embedded, and the overall format for the updated resources. Collectively, through listening sessions and surveys, they worked to understand the needs of key audiences, including law enforcement and disabled crime victims. Through this process, it was decided that the resources should take the form of an online toolkit that could be accessed on-demand. The Supporting Crime Victims with Disabilities Online Toolkit was the result.

The Toolkit is divided into four major sections, aimed at different groups of stakeholders:

•   Back to the Basics: An Introduction to Disability and Victimization

This section provides basic information about disability and victimization including how to understand functional limitations, legal requirements, and types of victimization.

•   Crime Scene to Courtroom: Information for First Responders and Legal Professionals

This section contains information about how first responders and legal professionals can effectively work with victims with disabilities.

•   Making the Case: Interviewing Victims with Disabilities

This section provides resources and training on interviewing both children and adults with disabilities and offers strategies for providing accommodations during the forensic interview.

•   Supporting Crime Victims with Disabilities from Crisis to Healing

This section provides resources and training on providing trauma-informed support for crime victims with disabilities and identifying local programs that can assist victims with disabilities.

To make it easy for busy professionals to learn and apply the information in the toolkit, the modules use a variety of formats including videos, short recorded lectures, tip sheets, sample policies and procedures, sample scripts for connecting with victims, and practice activities to aid in retention and understanding.

For law enforcement officers, the toolkit offers several resources which should prove particularly useful. These include lessons and resources to increase user confidence in identifying and interacting with victims with disabilities and guidance and recommended best practices for responding to calls; receiving citizen complaints; and questioning witnesses, suspects, and victims.

Twenty-five percent of Americans have a disability, and this quarter of the population is disproportionately likely to experience violent victimization. This toolkit provides resources to assist both law enforcement components across the criminal justice system and organizations devoted to protecting the rights of people with disabilities in their outreach efforts to this community.

Highlights of the National Resource Center for Reaching Victims Toolkit:

Additional Resources and Links:

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