Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $400,000)
People with disabilities, including intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD), & those who identify as Deaf or Hard of Hearing, are up to 4 times more likely to experience abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, & other crimes when compared to their peers. Crimes against these populations are significantly less likely to be reported due to poor service accessibility (including failure to accommodate interpreter services, plain language resources, & other considerations), cultural taboos, stigma, & feared loss of reputation. Further, people with disabilities are often not believed when reporting abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault or other crimes, & trauma-related behaviors are likely to be mislabeled as ‘behavioral issues’, particularly among those who have barriers to verbal communication.
For individuals with disabilities & Deaf or HoH persons who have experienced victimization, peer-centered holistic healing can serve as an alternative or stepping stone to traditional forms of counseling & post-victimization care. Focused on a combination of physical, emotional, social, spiritual, & intellectual (mental) health, holistic healing is an achievable entryway to care for victims who do not want to receive, or do not have access to, individual therapy. It is also a viable way to provide support services to victims in closed care settings who may be unable or unwilling to formally report violence & abuse.
The SAFE Alliance (SAFE), a nonprofit based in & serving Austin TX, recognizes these challenges & seeks to improve accessibility of victim services for people with disabilities, Limited English Proficiency, & Deaf or Hard of Hearing individuals in the community. As a victim service provider for over 48 years, SAFE is equipped to provide culturally & linguistically appropriate, trauma-informed services, including holistic healing modalities, to survivors while also training & supporting local service providers, law enforcement, & other stakeholders to increase the accessibility of their services when working with victims from these populations. Through this OVC FY22 Enhancing Access to Victim Services grant program, SAFE proposes to: a) provide tailored holistic healing groups & workshops to victims in collaboration with community service providers; b) train people with disabilities (through the Imagine Art non-profit) to facilitate or co-facilitate peer-centered holistic healing groups with crime victims within existing community settings; c) provide culturally & linguistically appropriate advocacy, counseling services & financial assistance for Deaf, Hard of Hearing &/or limited English proficiency victims, including services in ASL; & d) train community stakeholders (e.g. law enforcement, victim service & disability service staff) to provide trauma-informed responses to suspected & known incidents of abuse.