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Sexual assault, physical assault, and other forms victimization of people with disabilities (PWD) has reached epidemic proportions. In Multnomah County, only DART provides peer-to-peer culturally appropriate services from a person-centered, stakeholder, and trauma-informed approach. Sexual assault, physical assault, and other forms of abuse often go unreported. If you, or someone you care about, has been assaulted or abused, it is never the victim's fault. If you have been abused and would like assistance, please call the Disability Awareness Resource Team (DART), at (503) 988-6481.

Crime victims with disabilities are more vulnerable and at risk

When a person with a disability becomes a survivor, it frequently compounds existing problems caused by lack of accessibility to social services, poverty, institutionalization, and other barriers to equal rights. It may be the assault itself that results in a disability, when major life functions such as the ability to move, communicate, or understand are disrupted temporarily or permanently. Victimization and fear of the ‘system’ may result in a person's real or perceived inability to fight or flee and ability to notify others and testify about the victimization. Because a person with a disability may be more physically frail, the victimization may exacerbate existing health or mental health problems. Many offenders are motivated by a desire to obtain control over the victim and measure their potential prey for vulnerabilities. Many PWD, because they are perceived as unable to physically defend themselves, identify the attacker or call for help, are perfect targets for offenders. PWD may have intensified reactions because they already feel stigmatized.

Survivors with disabilities may have trouble addressing problems with sexual violence and getting help.

There are a number of reasons that survivors may find it challenging to deal with sexual violence. Survivors may: be socially isolated, not know about community resources and some resources may not be accessible, love the abuser and feel confused, & feel that if the sexual assault is reported, life will get worse.

Even when a person with a disability is psychologically ready to leave a violent situation & does seek help, lack of adequate support systems--accessible emergency transportation, sign language interpreters, accessible shelters, personal assistant services, child care, or a peer advocate--creates a plethora of additional barriers. The survivor may feel there is no choice but to endure the abuse.

The sense of self-blame, confusion, vulnerability and loss of trust may be exaggerated. Denial and avoidance with/or the need to cope may complicate the identification of survivors. Survivors, particularly the elderly and people with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities will need services specifically designed to enhance a feeling of safety and security regarding future victimization. Critical social services are not physically accessible and do not have communication accommodations.

DART victim service staff and volunteers are aware of the unique problems facing survivors and know how to serve them. DART direct services include: individual and group peer-to-peer counseling; support/empowerment groups; and other culturally specific services such as advocacy and co-advocacy, safety planning, managing disability supports, crisis intervention, coordination of community supports (information and referral), and information about informed choice.

Below are some definitions by victimization type:

Aggravated Assault
An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm.
Simple Assault
Assaults and attempted assaults where no weapon was used or no serious or aggravated injury resulted to the victim. Intimidation, coercion, and hazing are included.
Adult Sexual Assault
Includes a wide range of victimizations; crimes that include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing, fondling, and verbal threats. Also included is rape, which is defined as penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration of a sex organ by another person, without the consent of the victim; may also include penetration of the mouth by a sex organ by another person.
Child Sexual Abuse and Assault
This may include activities such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution by a parent, caregiver, or other person. Includes teen sexual assault.
Adults Sexually Abused/Assaulted as Children
Adult survivors of sexual abuse and/or assault suffered while they were children.
Domestic and/or Family Violence
A crime in which there is a past or present familial, household, or other intimate relationship between the victim and the offender, including spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, and any family members or persons residing in the same household as the victim. Involves a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

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