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Fostering Self-Advocates as Leaders to End Violence

In October 2012, Vera invited a group of self-advocates attending a national conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women to attend an afternoon discussion around the needs of self-advocates in addressing violence and abuse of people with disabilities.  The information garnered from this meeting and during follow up conversations with self-advocacy chapters and professionals helped us to see that self-advocates were anxious to become leaders in the violence against women field but lacked connections and tools to help them do this. To support their leadership development, Vera approached the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women about a project focused on Self-Advocate Leadership.  We brought together a group of leaders within the self-advocacy movement to develop a vision and direction for the project as well as a curriculum that will aid self-advocates nationwide in providing peer support to other individuals in their community who have experienced violence and abuse.

Why This Work Matters

Individuals with ID/DD are among the most marginalized populations in our country.  They are subjected to violence and abuse at rates so high that it boggles the mind.  Yet service providers have yet to find a balance between helping and further hurting individuals with ID/DD. This is because the high rate of abuse has a foothold in the historical treatment of individuals with ID/DD; from institutionalization and segregation to the philosophy of behavior management and compliance, each of which have served to hamper an individual’s options and ability to make their own choices.  This project is being led by and overseen by self-advocates in order to harvest their personal experiences and knowledge into a curriculum that will be usable by self-advocates across the country.  This project closes a gap that is centuries old; enabling self-advocates a voice in what is right for them, what will work for them and what will be created by them, in order to help each other in ways that professionals in the field have been unable to accomplish.