Fostering Collaboration and Building Capacity

In January 2005, Vera partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women to support federally funded organizations throughout the country to improve their services for survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors.  To that end, Vera developed a comprehensive menu of technical assistance resources housed in our Accessing Safety Initiative (ASI).  Through ASI, we provide intensive consultation and training to increase victim services agencies’ knowledge, skills, and resources for offering accessible and welcoming services to people with disabilities and, at the same time, help disability organizations offer safe and responsive services to survivors of domestic or sexual violence.

Our approach relies on building sustainable collaborations between agencies that serve people with disabilities and agencies that serve victims/survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence. ASI works throughout the country to foster this collaboration and help criminal justice personnel and social service providers increase their knowledge, resources, and capacity to serve survivors with disabilities. Specific activities include hosting national conferences, facilitating peer-led learning, conducting site visits, and providing intensive consultation. To ensure that capacity enhancements to facilitates are sustainable, ASI emphasizes those that focus on the policies, practices, cultures, and attitudes of organizations and that are, ultimately, integrated into the fabrics of those organizations.

Why This Work Matters

A small but persuasive body of research suggests that violence and abuse occur at epidemic rates among women with disabilities. It also suggests that women with specific kinds of disabilities are at a higher risk than others. Individuals with developmental disabilities, for example, are up to 10 times more likely to experience sexual assault than other adults. Moreover, research and anecdotal evidence indicate that Deaf women and women with disabilities—regardless of their disability type—experience significant barriers to accessing and receiving services that provide support and safety for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.