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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Consideration for CILs: Serving both the Victim and Perpetrator of a Crime

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics found that in 2010, persons with disabilities experienced an estimated 567,000 nonfatal violent crimes. They determined that the rate of violent victimization of persons with disabilities was almost twice the rate among persons without disabilities. It was also reported that 13% of violence against persons with disabilities was committed by intimate partners.

These numbers demonstrate the need for CILs to be aware that they are likely serving individuals who are or will be victims of a crime, and they may also be serving perpetrators of crimes. NCIL asked the Violence & Abuse Task Force to provide some guidance for CILs to consider. The following is a brief summary of the report the Task Force put together and presented at the 2013 NCIL Annual Conference. Much of the information below has been adapted from Guiding Principles: Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (PDF).

CIL staff members are not expected to experts at responding to crimes. While training and resources will help staff feel more comfortable addressing these issues with consumers, CILs need to look to expert community-based programs in their areas, such as sexual or domestic violence programs. Our biggest charge is to do all that we can to make the person to feel and be safe while they are using the Center’s services.

  • Collaboration with victim service providers is key. You need them, and they need you for cross-training and resources.
  • There should be a clear understanding of the role of the Center and its relationship with other agencies or systems with which the individual may come into contact.
  • Have information on sexual assault, domestic violence, personal safety, crime victims’ compensation funds, and other victims’ services openly displayed or provided during intake. Ensure that the information is provided to all consumers so it won’t raise concerns of the perpetrator. 
  • CILs can develop internal security measures. Utilize your local police to help you assess your Center’s safety features and develop an emergency plan. Ensure that everyone is aware of the safety features and what steps to take should this type of emergency develop.
  • CILs can develop a set of expectations, including rules and the consequences for not abiding by those rules.
  • CILs must treat a batterer with respect, yet recognize that they have used violence. Set parameters around their behavior to provide safety for the victim and staff.
  • Assign the victim and the perpetrator to separate staff members.
  • Offer a meeting space where the individual can feel secure, which could mean a space that is not accessible to others (locked doors or restricted areas), where individuals meeting cannot be seen from outside the room. Use window coverings to enhance the feeling of safety and prevent others from overhearing conversations. Keep in mind that if the person uses sign language, their family, caregivers, and other service personnel in their life may also understand sign language and will understand what is being said if the conversation takes place in their line of sight. Professional interpreters are bound by ethics, but family members are not and they should not be asked to serve as the interpreter. The family member could be the perpetrator, the consumer may not have told and may not want to tell the family about the crime, or the family member could be vicariously victimized by learning of a crime when being asked to serve as an interpreter.
  • Ensure your CIL has strong policies on confidentiality, information sharing, and consent. Breach of confidentiality of someone who is a victim of a crime, who may have a protective or restraining order, who may be working on developing a safety plan, could very well be life-threatening if information gets into the wrong hands. There are other policies and procedures that CILs can put in place that can help establish safe practices, including pre-employment background checks of employees and volunteers, and workplace violence and sexual harassment policies.
  • Ensure employees of the Center understand your state’s Mandatory Reporting laws, agree to understand and respect the terms of any existing restraining and / or protective orders, and understand procedures for reporting of criminal activity.
  • Keep in mind that each state handles “guardianship” differently and many states have different roles and responsibilities for guardians, conservatories, powers of attorney, etc. Many have limitations to the authority that person may have in regards to decision making. Your CIL should have in place policies that guide the staff in regard to providing consumer-directed services when working with someone who has a legal guardian.
  • Evaluate your ‘check in’ procedures. Do you require someone to sign in? If you do, keep in mind that this discloses information to the next person coming in the door, who is already in the building.

There are other community-based programs CILs can look to for models of policies to serve victims and perpetrators. Examples include programs serving immigrant populations, the LGBTQ community, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), and the National Adult Protective Services Association. SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care provides examples of victim-centered services. All CILs take pride in being consumer-directed. However, we must admit that we don’t know what we don’t know regarding crime victimization and understanding and addressing emotional trauma in a responsive, inclusive manner. Reach out to your community and find partners to assist you in assessing your Center’s safety and your response plan should a consumer disclose that they have been a victim of a crime and are seeking your assistance.

For copies of the full report by the NCIL Violence & Abuse Task Force, contact Jan Derry at jderry@nwvcil.org.

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