Office for Victims of Crime
Community-level Replication Guide
 September 2012 Text size: decrease font size increase font size   Send e-mail icon

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Step 5. Taking Measure

Train Staff To Use the System

tipsTips From the Field

In developing tracking systems, questions may arise such as “Should we report observable disabilities even if the survivor does not report a disability?”, “Does mental illness have to be diagnosed?”, and “If the guardian reports a disability of the crime victim, do we track it?” The pilot sites counted only people who self-disclosed a disability, and they were prepared to provide a definition and examples of disabilities if crime victims were unsure if they had a disability.

Talk to your staff about why collecting information about disabilities is important, and address any discomfort they might have with asking the question. Staff instructions might include the following:

  • For victim service agencies, ask any disability-related questions after staff have determined eligibility for rape crisis or domestic violence services. A person cannot be excluded from services because of a disability. (Note: Many victim service agencies, such as domestic violence/sexual assault centers, have waiting lists for services and may have to prioritize individuals receiving services according to the level of danger or crisis.)
  • For all agencies—
    • Emphasize that answering questions about disabilities is voluntary. Do not force the issue. Commonly, persons with intellectual disabilities are taught to comply with authority figures or service providers, so they may answer just to please you.
tipsTips From the Field

Be prepared to address staff discomfort. In Columbus, Ohio, volunteers and sexual assault nurse examiners were initially uneasy about asking sexual assault survivors if they had disabilities, so staff from the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio provided training and a more detailed script for service providers to follow.
    • Ask all people the same questions, whether they appear to have a disability or not. This tactic is a good way to reach persons with hidden disabilities (e.g., seizure disorder, mental illness/trauma, AIDS, cancer). Letting all clients know that everybody is asked the same question also reduces the possibility of perceived discrimination.
    • Use your best judgment about when to ask and when not to ask about disability. Do not ask when the person seems to be feeling overwhelmed or is in extreme crisis, for example.
    • Only record people who say they have a disability. Do not assume a disability based on your personal observation.