Working with Sexual Assault Survivors with Disabilities

Working with Sexual Assault Survivors with Disabilities
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2020-04-01
Unit 1Slide Deck: Working with Sexual Assault Survivors with Disabilities
Unit 2Workbook: Working with Sexual Assault Survivors with Disabilities 585
Unit 3Recording: Working with Sexual Assault Survivors with Disabilities

Sexual violence in persons with disabilities is a complex issue with numerous factors that can lead to further victimization and traumatization of the individual. This session aims to provide an overview of the dynamics of sexual violence in individuals with disability, from definitions and history to guidelines for advocates on how to better address such cases.

Back on Justice Clearinghouse is Victoria Riechers, the Sexual Violence Response Coordinator for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. The focus of her role is in sexual assault cases and her duties include training and technical assistance to responders and providers and assisting communities to develop response teams.

Specifics discussed in this course include:

  • Disabilities: Its definition according to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the basic classification of disabilities, and the concept of visible and invisible disabilities.
  • The oppression and discrimination individuals with disability experienced throughout history
  • The concept of pre-sexual violence trauma that people may have in relation to their identity.
  • How society unconsciously perpetuates ableism which prevents those with disabilities to access services needed if they experience sexual violence.
  • Self-advocacy and self-determination as empowering principles for people with disabilities.
  • The language we use when talking to or referencing people with disabilities.
  • The different forms that fall under the umbrella term sexual violence.
  • Statistics that emphasize the prevalence of sexual violence in people with disabilities.
  • Red flags that may indicate potential sexual violence in individuals, particularly those with disabilities.
  • The three main considerations perpetrators take into account when targeting their victims and how these manifest in people with disabilities.
  • Stereotypes and biases that society place on people with disabilities which inadvertently victimizes them.
  • The level of victim-blaming people with disability encounter when they come forward about being a victim of sexual violence.
  • Barriers that keep survivors with disabilities from reporting and accessing services.
  • Overcoming the barriers keeping people with disabilities from reporting and accessing services by:
    • Creating a welcoming environment that have resources needed to assist their needs
    • Accessibility provisions from physical accessibility features to more accommodating services that consider their challenges.
    • Applying the Disability Humility model that puts the focus on the individual, their experience, and their trauma instead of their disability.
    • Observing general disability etiquette that recognizes the survivor’s autonomy, does not make assumptions about their abilities, and provides necessary accommodations as needed.
    • Innovating how medical forensics are done to accommodate the unique features of a person’s disability.
    • Advocating, communicating and collaborating with other providers to provide better services.
    • Mindful and deliberate communication styles to ensure understanding between all involved parties.
    • Employing outreach to raise awareness and educate the service providers, communities, and people with disabilities themselves about the issue.

Victoria provided clarifications for questions raised by the audience on:

  • How COVID-19 is impacting domestic and sexual violence incidences.
  • Terms to use and language concerns.
  • Resources on sex education and consent.
  • The fear and discrimination that survivors with physical disabilities may feel.
  • How law enforcement can better serve community members with disabilities.
  • Confidentiality issues for survivors that are minors.
  • False reporting citations for survivors who reported sexual violence.


Resources Utilized During Webinar:



Audience Comments

  • “Every piece of information is useful. Topics were mentioned that I didn’t even consider. I will definitely share this information and inquire as to whether or not we are prepared to help someone with disabilities of all types.” — Amber
  • “Great webinar! the information was very useful.” — Alexis
  • “It was a very productive Webinar. So much to learn about this sensitive topic. Thank you!” — Ambar
  • “Awesome historical information and important points to remember when dealing with a person with disabilities.” — Aline
  • “Originally coming from working with those with disabilities into prevention, it is nice to see the consideration for those with disabilities. I am often helping my team discuss what would work well in the services we would provide or what we need to outsource.” — Brianna
  • “Very good full overview of types of disabilities and what agencies/advocates should be doing when working with survivors with disabilities.” — Julie
  • “This webinar was wonderful and really made me think about how we can be better accessible for survivors with disabilities. One part that really stuck out to me was thinking about if someone who was deaf walked into our agency, how quickly would we be able to make accommodations to serve them?? As of now, I believe we would have to scramble, which I don’t like. We will definitely be doing more agency-wide trainings on this subject. Thank you so much!” — Brittany
  • “Everything was very informative and explained clearly. Thank you and looking forward to the other webinars.” — Juany
  • “So much great information. I really appreciated all the clarification about terminology and ways to collaborate with other service providers.” — Mary
  • “I did not realize this community was so hesitant to report sexual assaults. I am a detective and have had numerous disabled persons report being a victim of sexual assaults. This video was very helpful, thank you.” — Megan
  • “I thought the section on how to be inclusive as an agency for people with a disability was extremely important. I really enjoyed this webinar.”   –Renee


Additional Resources
2 years ago
After the Webinar: Working with Sexual Assault Survivors with Disabilities. Q&A with Victoria Riechers
Webinar presenter Victoria Riechers answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Work […]
2 years ago
Thoughts on Victim Advocacy from Victoria Riechers
A great reminder -- often heard in the disability community -- re-shared by speaker Victoria Riecher […]
2 years ago
Insights about Identities from Victoria Riechers
A poignant reminder  -- and an important one -- Victoria Riechers shared during her powerful webina […]
3 years ago
Working with Sexual Assault Victims: Strategies for Justice Professionals
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3 years ago
The Neurobiology and Traumatic Impact of Sexual Assault
Traversing a sexual violence case is tricky. When sexual assault survivors are asked to recount the […]
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Understanding Sexual Assault Perpetration: Dynamics, Tactics, and the Psychology of Sex Offenders
Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are brought to the forefront as more and more victims fi […]
7 years ago
Investigating Cold Case Sexual Assault
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