Creating Language Access with Deaf Advocates: Partnering for Success

Conferences are a place where advocates and leaders in the anti-violence movement can learn more about trends and strategies as well as network with other colleagues. For Deaf advocates, there are access considerations to ensure they can fully participate. This webinar will discuss how staff from the Resource Sharing Project at the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Center on Victimization and Safety at the Vera Institute of Justice partnered together during the Embracing Change & Growth Conference that took place in Chicago in March 2019.

Staff will share the approaches utilized to ensure full inclusiveness and language access for Deaf participants, including the provision of both hearing and Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. They will share lessons learned from the from the conference, discuss what our partnership looked like, including what made it a successful partnership, and share recommendations for your future in-person event planning for access and inclusion. If you have always wondered about the successful ingredients for maximum language access for Deaf participants at your in-person events, this is the webinar for you!

Join panelists Kat Fribley, Kris Bein, and Valerie Davis from the Resource Sharing Project and Center on Victimization and Safety staff Raylene Lotz, Liam Esposito, and Nancy Smith, as well as American Sign Language Interpreter, Amber Hodson, for this discussion.

What’s Happening for Deaf Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence?

Deaf domestic and sexual violence programs are few and far between in comparison to hearing programs. There are only 20 “for Deaf, by Deaf” programs compared to approximately 3,000 programs designed for hearing survivors. What does this mean for Deaf survivors of domestic and sexual violence trying to heal from violence and abuse? Join this panel discussion with advocates from Deaf domestic and sexual violence programs to learn more about the state of Deaf services. These boots-on-ground advocates will share more about their programs, including about the National Deaf Hotline, the barriers Deaf survivors experience when trying to access services from hearing programs, explore the disparities Deaf survivors of color experience, and share why understanding what’s happening, and the resources available to Deaf survivors of domestic and sexual violence, is critical.


Invisible Injuries: Domestic Violence, Traumatic Brain Injuries and Strangulation

photo of Rachel Ramirez
While some disabilities are present at birth, many people with disabilities acquired their disability through trauma.Advocates who work with domestic violence survivors have known for decades that abusers intentionally target a victim’s head, neck and face, with terrifying and painful repeated assaults and strangulation. Ohio research showed that over 8 in 10 survivors accessing domestic violence services had experienced head trauma that could cause brain injuries, but these injuries were hardly ever identified or treated.

We are just beginning to understand the way that these assaults can impact the brain, cause brain injuries, and affect every aspect of a person’s life. Come to this webinar to learn about the brain and how it functions, and be introduced to the characteristics, signs, symptoms, and consequences of traumatic brain injury and strangulation. We will also discuss CARE, Ohio’s evidence-informed service provision approach and provide you with practical tools, resources, and educational materials to begin raising awareness and meeting the needs of survivors of abuse impacted by head trauma.

Rachel Ramirez is the Founder and Director of The Center on Partner-Inflicted Brain Injury, a project of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN). Rachel is currently directing the Center’s first federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to increase collaboration and develop training and services for the brain injury, domestic violence, sexual assault, and health care fields. Over the past 14 years at ODVN, Rachel has led multiple statewide initiatives on trauma-informed approaches as well as other topics. She has trained hundreds of audiences and co-authored Trauma-Informed Approaches: Promising Practices and Protocols for Ohio’s Domestic Violence Programs, as well as peer-reviewed journal articles in the Journal of Family Violence and the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma. Rachel is a bilingual licensed independent social worker and a registered advocate with senior standing in Ohio.

Transformative Justice in the Lives of Survivors with Disabilities & Deaf Survivors

Transformative Justice in the Lives of Survivors with Disabilities

With high rates of victimization and incarceration, people with disabilities have an elevated likelihood of having contact with the criminal legal system in their lifetime. However, due to lack of accessibility, unexamined biases – conscious and unconscious – that exist in the criminal legal system, and an overall fear of system involvement, people with disabilities, and specifically Black, Indigenous people with disabilities, are seeking alternatives to healing and accountability.

One of those alternatives is Transformative Justice. Transformative Justice (TJ) is a framework and approach for responding to violence, harm, and abuse. At its most basic, it seeks to respond to violence without creating more violence and/or engaging in harm reduction to lessen the violence. TJ was created by and for people from marginalized communities for whom calling the police may not be a viable or safe option. This session will further explore the concept of transformative justice and its application to power-based violence in disability and Deaf communities.

Facilitator, Olga Trujillo, from the Center on Victimization and Safety at the Vera Institute of Justice, will be joined in conversation by Najma Johnson and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.


Najma Johnson, DAWN. Najma, who identifies as BlackDeafBlind Trans non-binary, is currently the Executive Director at DAWN, a anti-violence agency providing services for the DeafDisabled, DeafBlind, Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late-deafened who experienced power-based violence. Najma co-founded Together All in Solidarity (TAS), an umbrella anti-violence community collaboration that functions as a network for marginalized communities within the Deaf Community. Their lifelong work to reduce violence is led by a commitment to transformative justice and actively looking to reduce harm and address systems of oppression.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Leah (she/they) is a nonbinary femme disabled writer and disability and transformative justice movement worker of Burgher and Tamil Sri Lankan, Irish and Galician Romani ascent. They are the author or co-editor of nine books, including (with Ejeris Dixon) Beyond Survival, Tonguebreaker, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, and Bodymap. A Lambda Award winner who has been shortlisted for the Publishing Triangle five times, they are the 2020 Jean Cordova Award winner “honoring a lifetime of work documenting the complexities of queer experience” and are a 2020 Disability Futures Fellow. Raised in rustbelt central Massachusetts and shaped by T’karonto and Oakland, they currently make home in South Seattle, Duwamish territories. Website is:


Emerging Issues for Domestic Violence Survivors with Disabilities and Deaf Survivors: 2021 and Beyond

Are you grappling with how to best serve survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors during what feels like a constant transition period? Are you trying to have critical conversations within your agency about the challenges you are facing? Have you discovered strategies or best practices for meeting the needs of survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors? Join us during Domestic Violence Awareness Month with the theme of No Survivor Justice Without Racial Justice as we recognize the ever-changing landscape for domestic violence survivors and service providers through an interactive discussion to address these topics and more.
In this webinar, panelists working at the intersection of domestic violence and disability will lead a discussion with the audience on issues including addressing racial equity, ensuring equitable access to technology and services, centering survivors in safety planning and service provision, and evolving your approaches to the work to meet the changing needs of domestic violence survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors.
photos of panelists, Mercedes Thompson, Brintha Jeyalingam, and Maria Armstrong

Words Matter: Exploring Identity and Language for Survivors with Disabilities

In the disability community, where there is a history of erasure, exploitation, and misunderstanding, language choices we make when talking about people with disabilities (also referred to as disabled people) are ever-changing and important. How people understand themselves adapts and shifts as our communities, movements, and cultures change, as does our language about identity.
Recognizing and honoring people’s choices about their identity is critical to supporting survivors with disabilities. Service providers need to understand, respect, and uplift community members’ decisions about their identity, including the language that they use.
Join us for a dynamic discussion with Max Barrows and Cierra Olivia Thomas-Williams, moderated by Olga Trujillo, as we delve into their perspectives on identity and language, the various perspectives of disability communities, and the importance of empowering those most impacted to make decisions about their own identities and the language we use.

End Abuse Webinar – Innovations at the Intersection: Centering Survivors with Disabilities in the Movement

Survivors with disabilities are experts in their own lived experiences, so they should guide our work to ensure services are accessible and responsive to their needs. To meaningfully work with survivors with disabilities, you need to make sure everything you do is accessible and inclusive.

In this panel discussion, self-advocates from Washington, D.C. and Kansas who are working to address domestic and sexual violence against people with disabilities will share how their work empowers them as advocates and how they have partnered with their team members to play a meaningful leadership role.

In the session, you will learn strategies for decision-making and power-sharing, tips for ensuring cognitive and physical access, and ways to empower survivors with disabilities with the tools and support they need to be equal peers in the work to address domestic and sexual violence.

End Abuse Webinar: Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault with Disabilities with a Survivor Support Packet

In our first Innovations at the Intersection webinar, we will highlight the Survivor Support Packet, a support guide for survivors of sexual assault with disabilities. If you are looking for a tool to help you serve survivors with disabilities, the Survivor Support Packet, developed by and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in collaboration with the rest of the Mass Rights for Change team, may be what you are looking for! The Survivor Support Packet includes a list of a survivor’s rights following sexual assault, a community resource list, scripts to help survivors reach out for help, self-care exercises, and tips for people supporting survivors with disabilities.
In this interactive discussion, we will talk about the need that led to the Survivor Support Packet, how it could be valuable in your community, and how you can create a similar, customized resource by partnering with self-advocates. You will also learn some of the strategies used in the Survivor Support Packet that could be helpful in working with survivors with disabilities you serve.

About the Panelists:

The panelists for this session from the Mass Rights for Change include self-advocates, advocates, and attorneys. The team is made up of three organizations: MASS Advocates Standing StrongVictim Rights Law Center, and Pathways for Change, Inc. The Mass Rights for Change team is a multi-disciplinary team working to address the needs of survivors of sexual violence with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Central Massachusetts.

Register for the Webinar 

Serving Survivors with Mental Health Disabilities

Each May, we observe Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time to celebrate the resilience of people with mental health disabilities and honor their voices as they work to end stigma and increase access. This month also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on where we can improve our services to better serve them. Survivors of domestic and sexual violence with mental health disabilities still face significant barriers in seeking and receiving healing services, including more significant or unfamiliar responses to trauma and lingering stigma around their disabilities. Service providers must continue the work in ensuring survivors’ services are safe, welcoming, and accessible and that their experiences are centered. Join Olga Trujillo as they explore the needs of survivors with mental health disabilities and potential solutions for overcoming barriers to services that providers can implement to be more responsive to their needs.


Olga Trujillo joined the Center on Victimization and Safety as a Project Manager in 2021. Olga is an attorney, speaker, author, who in 1993 was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Olga’s memoir, The Sum of My Parts was released by New Harbinger Publications in October 2011. Olga trains internationally to help advocates, courts and first responders to improve their work with people with invisible disabilities.