Sandra Harrell began her tenure with the Vera Institute of Justice in 2006. She is a project director in the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Victimization and Safety and her work focuses on helping individuals, organizations, and communities across the country address violence against adults and children with disabilities. She oversees a variety of projects, including a federally-funded program that helps communities across the United States improve their response to women with disabilities and Deaf women who have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking. Sandra has worked closely with the 50 communities funded by the Office on Violence Against Women’s Disability Grant Program, helping them to build multi-disciplinary collaborations to address the gaps within and between their systems to ensure that survivors with disabilities get the support they need. Additionally, Sandra leads our efforts to address sexual abuse of children with disabilities and Deaf children, and serves as an internal advisor to all projects focused on the intersection of disability and violence. She has also delivered trainings on violence against women with disabilities at multiple venues across the country, co-authored reports on the topic, and coordinated roundtables and meetings to expand the field.
Sandra’s professional life has focused almost exclusively on addressing domestic and sexual violence. She began working in the anti-violence against women movement in 1990 working on her local crisis line and volunteering at the local domestic violence shelter. In 1996, Sandra was hired to work for Turning Point Battered Women’s Shelter in Alexandria, Louisiana where she served as an advocate for battered women and rape survivors, providing individual support, group counseling, court advocacy, and hospital escorts. She pursued her master’s degree in women’s studies to more fully explore gender-based violence and attained her degree from Goddard College in 2000. Shortly thereafter, Sandra was hired as the Project Director for Vanderbilt University’s Grant to Reduce Violence Crimes Against Women on Campuses where she provided education to students, faculty and staff on the topics of sexual violence, domestic violence and stalking. In 2005, she accepted a position at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault where she worked on Project Access, an initiative that introduced her to complex barriers faced by survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors.
Sandra’s professional interests include the intersection of disability and gender-based violence, the impact of having a disability to gaining access to the justice system, the prevention of sexual abuse of children with disabilities and Deaf children, improving the accessibility of domestic and sexual violence programs, and improving the responsiveness of disability organizations and Deaf-serving organizations.