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

Victim-Centered Advocacy on Social Media: A Word of Caution from the NCIL Violence & Abuse Subcommittee

The rise in our use of social media to broadcast news and injustices done to our sisters and brothers makes it easier to advocate & share information quickly. “React with CAUTION!” advises the NCIL Abuse & Violence Subcommittee, as there can be serious impacts for victims of violence when we share their stories.

Being “person-centered” comes naturally for disability rights advocates, yet remembering to be “victim-centered” can be a little more difficult when our hackles are raised by sensationalized stories about people with disabilities. “We must put the victim at the center of any action we take as advocates,” reminds NCIL Violence & Abuse Subcommittee Co-Chair Roberta Sick of the Crime Victims and Safety and Sexual Violence Prevention Projects at Partners for Inclusive Communities at the University of Arkansas.

Being victim-centered means that we always consider what the victim wants first. A victim may not want their news-worthy story shared, or may have a specific time in the criminal justice process when they want the story shared. Being victim-centered also means helping people to stay safe when they are not ready to leave a dangerous situation or relationship. 

Learn how your CIL can become more victim-centered. One important resource is the Vera website: End Abuse of People with Disabilities: CILs doing violence response or victim-centered work, should review its new tool “Measuring Capacity to Serve Survivors with Disabilities: Performance Indicators

So remember – before you hit that SHARE button, focus on the victim, not the glaring injustice. Keep calm and keep the person at the center of your action. Otherwise, you may wind up advocating in the wrong direction.

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