Individuals with developmental disabilities are at a much higher risk of victimization than individuals without disabilities.
Focusing primary prevention strategies towards service providers, family members, and others who play a role in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities can create changes in the relationship, community, institutional and, ultimately, the societal factors that perpetuate or condone sexual violence against this population. Strategies need to hold perpetrators and communities accountable for preventing sexual violence.
Additionally, focusing secondary prevention, or risk reduction, strategies towards individuals with developmental disabilities can also improve their safety and well-being. Such strategies need to be appropriate to each individual’s physical and developmental ability.
Prioritizing prevention efforts to address sexual violence against individuals with developmental disabilities, the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force developed an Advisory Committee in July 2005 to provide guidance and assistance on the development and implementation of an agenda and action steps for a statewide initiative. The Advisory Committee, made up of individuals from the developmental disabilities and sexual violence advocacy communities, developed the following vision for the initiative:
- To establish a positive image of and response to individuals with developmental disabilities as people with full human rights and needs, including healthy sexual relationships.
- To develop a thriving support net that assists individuals in creating healthy relationships and lives, and comprehensive services that encompass all individuals and their specific needs.
Between July 2005 and June 2006, the Advisory Committee met four times. Initial meetings involved developing relationships between the two communities and improving committee members’ understanding of the issues through information sharing and cross-training. During this process the committee developed the following recommendation for action areas in which to begin work:
- Training & education for individuals with developmental disabilities, parents and family, community members, and service providers.
- Training for criminal justice system on working with both victims and offenders with developmental disabilities.
- Incorporating healthy sexuality education and sexual violence prevention into Individualized Education Programs and Individual Service Plans.
- Policy and legislation to change the Oregon Administrative Rules to incorporate best practices for serving individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Enhancing networks and communication among and between developmental disability and sexual assault service providers.
- Recommendations for increasing sustainability of services and efforts.
Between July 2006 and June 2007, Advisory Committee members agreed to increase the number of meetings to every other month, in order to maintain momentum and more effectively address some of the identified action areas.Based on concurrent efforts, the committee prioritized the following action areas:
- Review Individual Service Plans and make recommendations to the Oregon Department of Human Services.
- Review Individualized Education Programs and make recommendations to the Oregon Department of Education.
- Assist the local special projects with the development of training and resources for developmental disability service providers, family members, and individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Enhance networks and communication among and between developmental disability and sexual assault service providers, through awareness raising and cross-training opportunities.
- Identified and developed resources for individuals who have developmental disabilities.
- Identified and developed resources for providers who serve people with developmental disabilities.
- Identified and developed resources for families of people with developmental disabilities.
- Identified avenues for raising awareness about the need for healthy sexuality information and sexual violence prevention for people with developmental disabilities.
- Identified possible areas for collaboration within the Mental Health field.
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