Our team will be holding listening sessions to learn more about important issues and concerns related to sexual assault of people with IDD. What we learn will help us develop resources and tools to prevent sexual assault and to support people if it does happen to them. We’ll have five groups:
People with IDD (who identify as survivors of sexual assault)
People with IDD (who do not identify as survivors)
First responders including law enforcement (who have CIT or Pathways to Justice training), EMS, and emergency room nurses with experience working with people with IDD
Service coordinators (e.g., LIDDA, ARC, SSLC, Day Hab, etc.)
Each group will have four people. They will meet two times over Zoom for 1.5 hours each time. Participants will receive $75/session. The first session will be in late June/early July. The second session will be in August.
We want diversity within these groups, including people with differing races and ethnicities, languages, disabilities, gender, gender identification, and sexual orientation.
All participants must be at least 18 years old and willing to discuss these sometimes-difficult topics. We are working with SAFE Austin to ensure all participants have control and choice within the sessions. We will also include a therapist with trauma-informed training in the sessions.
If you or anyone you know is interested in participating, please contact Alisa Miller no later than May 21. Let her know in which one of the five groups you want to join. Alisa will follow up to get more information.
We are hard at work in this first year of our project. We’re already learning so much about this important topic. We want to share some of our early findings with you.
Prevention Focuses on Sexuality Education
Sexuality Education is used most often to prevent sexual assault of people with IDD. These programs might focus on healthy sexuality, understanding boundaries, and learning how to keep our bodies safe. These programs are important and can be very helpful. But they don’t focus on the perpetrators–the people doing the assaults. And often, people shy away from sexuality issues. This puts people with IDD more at risk.
Group Housing Is a Big Risk Factor
Group housing can include anything from a state supported living center (SSLC) to an informal home where roommates share space. Sexual assault happens at higher rates in group housing. But assaults are less likely to be reported. When they are reported, staff are less likely to involve police. This often leads to a cycle that keeps the perpetrators safe and continuing to commit assaults/abuse.
Adjudication and Survivor Support Get Little Attention
Most studies, programs, and resources focus on prevention and reporting. Yet, adjudication (making sure perpetrators are tried and convicted) is very important too. Abusers who do not receive consequences usually continue to assault/abuse.
Also, little is being done to support sexual assault survivors with IDD. We know that healing trauma is difficult but critical. More needs to be done to provide survivors with a clear recovery plan and the resources to make it happen.
We are excited to be able to bring light to this dark topic. We will publish our complete gap analysis framework in July of 2021. We will then begin working on resources to help fill those gaps.
Comment below to let us know what you think is most important in supporting people with IDD!
Did you know that people with IDD are much more likely than others to be victims of sexual abuse and assault? By learning and talking about it, we can all help change that!
Strategic Education Solutions (SES) and University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) are working on a new project about sexual assault. We will research what’s happening now. We’ll also hold focus groups to ask self-advocates, families/friends/allies, service providers, and first-responders about their experiences.
Then, we’ll start building tools and training to help self-advocates and others prevent sexual assault and improve response when it happens. Stay tuned for updates!