Gap Analysis of Services/Care for Sexual Abuse Victims with Disabilities, Including People with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities (ID/DD) in Indiana

The Indiana Abuse Prevention Disability Task Force conducted interviews with disability serving and governmental agencies in order to understand the processes by which people with disabilities can report abuse including sexual assault (SA). There are three state divisions, Bureau of Developmental and Disability Services (BDDS), Division of Aging, and the Department of Child Services (DCS) that have processes in place for reporting, following up after incidents, and to provide for or “cover” medical and legal care. After the Task Force identified mandatory state reporting procedures, they created flow charts depicting these practices to encourage transparency across sectors. During this collaborative effort, these three common gaps in holistic care emerged following the official reporting of the incident:


In reviewing the flow charts, the APDTF learned disability service providers follow the reporting requirements set by state agencies and offer support where they can with little to no interagency collaboration. Each state division, BDDS, Division of Aging & DCS, collects incident data and enforces mandated safety standards and when sexual abuse incidents are substantiated, a criminal justice process may begin. The safety of the person receiving services is paramount as is protecting provider organizations from liability for harm that may come to the person while receiving services. Advocacy or support for a person with ID/DD through the criminal justice and/or healing process is not guaranteed. Additionally, organizations that provide rape crisis services do not typically house people with ID/DD, especially when there are caregivers in the person’s life. 

The Task Force makes the following recommendations to increase safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments in the state of Indiana
· Education of disability service providers, victim service providers, and the community is needed to ensure survivors with disabilities are connected to the healing services they need following an incident of violence. Education on bodily autonomy, sexual literacy, and inappropriate touch is needed for people with disabilities so they can communicate their desires and report positive or harmful experiences. 
· Mandated processes ensure reports are made to the appropriate authorities to ensure safety of the survivor as well as other consumers. However, these processes can feel sterile, and confusing and sometimes made against the will of the victim or person harmed. 
· Advocates remind survivors of their rights, empower survivors to choose what is right for them, and provide emotional support to survivors in challenging situations. For survivors with disabilities to benefit from advocacy, disability organizations must be informed of this role and contact them when needed, and victim service providers must be educated on the unique needs and ways to communicate with survivors with disabilities. 

The gaps discussed in this document demonstrate a lack of communication and understanding between the disability justice movement and the anti-violence movement, which we believe is the outcome of the siloing of social problems and constructing one size fits all solutions through state systems. While legal justice is attempted and pursued, prosecution and conviction rates remain low, and restorative and healing practices are ignored when they involve people with ID/DD. Instead, restorative justice is personal and responsive to the needs of the individual survivor or person harmed; it is both survivor-centered and person-first, empowering the individual who was harmed to drive the investigative and reparative processes. 

The APDTF is connecting people with and without disabilities across disciplines to identify and address the existing gaps in service provision, education, and communication across sectors and levels of prevention. We are joining the concepts of survivor-centered services from the anti-violence movement with person-first services from the disability justice movement so that survivors with disabilities are empowered to lead self-directed lives, which includes what happens following an incident of violence. 

Analysis and info-graphic was created by Haleigh Rigger and Micca Stewart.  Haleigh Rigger is the statewide Rape Crisis Coordinator with Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking (ICESAHT), [email protected] and Micca Stewart, Bureau of Quality and Improvement Services (BQIS), Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA), [email protected].

The  Bureau of Quality and Improvement Services (BQIS) and  the Bureau of Developmental Disability Services (BDDS) are support organizations for services for people with disabilities in the state of Indiana. These departments are part of the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA), which is an administrative body of the Indiana state government.  

Learn about the Task Force’s work in disability justice and sexual violence primary prevention in our online resource community in Patreon or email us at [email protected]

Funding for this document was made possible (in part) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Indiana State Department of Health. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


Posted out together and published by  Cierra Olivia Thomas-Williams, Prevention Specialist, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), [email protected] icadvinc.org.   

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