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

Violent Crimes: People with Disabilities and the CIL Response

In May of 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released the latest report of crimes against people with disabilities. This data collected through the National Crime Victimization Survey revealed that people with disabilities in the U.S. experienced about 1.3 million violent victimizations in 2013 (BJS, 2015).

The rates of serious violent victimizations, which include rape, sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated assault, were more than three times higher than those reported by people without disabilities. Of the people with disabilities who experienced violent crimes, nearly 25% believe they were targeted because of their disability. It should be noted that this data does not include many groups such as those living in institutions.

The people who come to Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are counting on us to be advocates that provide information and resources on many difficult issues including violent crimes.

What can CILs do about these staggering statistics?

  • Seek out additional information and participate in webinars.
  • Watch out for and seek out funding to specifically address violence against people with disabilities.
  • Create partnerships and collaborations with domestic violence and sexual assault organizations.
  • Ensure that your CILs are a safe haven for people with disabilities through policy development and programming.
  • Use the core services to help identify people with disabilities who may need additional information or support or who are experiencing trauma from experiencing violent crimes. Ways to do this could include:
    • Questions on intake forms that ask if more information is needed about the topic to encourage more discussion about the issues.
    • Independent living skills classes can include information on safety planning
    • Peer support can acknowledge that violence happens and that healing is possible
  • Participate in the local efforts in communities across the country happening during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 10 to 16, 2016.
    • National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) in 2016 is underscoring the importance of early intervention and victim services with this year’s theme; “Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope.”
    • The full 2016 NCVRW Resource Guide will be online in February 2016, but CILs can reach out now to crime victim services providers to learn what is being planned locally – and how people with disabilities can be involved.
    • Watch the video or download the printable referral page and poster to hang in your office.

What can CILs do right now?

  • Review the materials above
  • Watch and discuss the theme movie at your CIL
  • Have some open and honest conversations about violence
  • Invite a local victim’s services agency to come in and talk to staff and peer supporters or groups that meet
  • Centers for Independent Living can better meet the needs of victims by collaborating with crime victim agencies in your community

These issues have huge effects on how any person who has experienced violent crime approaches housing, employment, transportation, or mental health services etc. Violent crimes happen in all communities, across economic levels, in diverse populations, and in both rural and urban areas of the country. CILs and SILCs can work to bring awareness so that as communities address violence, victims who have disabilities are not left out of the discussions or the supports.

These staggering statistics are probably even lower than what actually happens. We need awareness! With awareness comes action and action helps to create a climate in society where violence is not tolerated and does not occur. Join the NCIL Violence and Abuse Subcommittee to learn more. Just do something – you will be glad you did.


  1. Todd Holloway says:

    A relevant investigation:
    A KING 5 investigation has led to proposed legislation aimed at better protecting adults with developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-University Place), Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, sponsored the bill which would make it mandatory for DSHS case workers to visit clients every year in person and at times to show up for the check-ins unannounced.

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