New Initiative Aims to Build National Movement for Ending Violence Against People with Disabilities

New York, NY—The Vera Institute of Justice today announced a new project, made possible by the support of the NoVo Foundation, to build a national coalition to address violence against people with disabilities. The initiative will identify and support a national coalition of leaders to develop a shared vision, goals, and strategy for leveraging existing—but disparate—efforts to serve survivors with disabilities and engage new allies to build a cohesive movement.

According to a federal crime victimization survey, people with disabilities experience violent victimization at rates 3 times higher than people without disabilities. For people with certain disabilities, rates are even higher—one study found that 83% of women and 32% of men with cognitive disabilities reported being victims of sexual assault. Despite these alarming rates, survivors with disabilities are less likely to receive formal support due to a number of factors, including communicative, physical, programmatic, and attitudinal barriers that prevent people with disabilities from receiving support from victim service organizations and the justice system.

This project aims to address this service gap by bringing a focus on people with disabilities into the larger national conversation on ending domestic and sexual violence. The NoVo Foundation—a philanthropic organization dedicated to catalyzing a transformation in global society, with a core priority of ending violence against women and girls—is aiding Vera’s Center on Victimization and Safety in this work through a 3-year, $450,000 grant.

“Survivors with disabilities have lived too long in the shadows, without recognition of their pain, or welcoming and compassionate responses to help them heal,” said Nancy Smith, director of Vera’s Center on Victimization and Safety. “We are thrilled to have the NoVo Foundation’s support in this effort to unite the people doing the vital work to serve survivors with disabilities, and ultimately, to address the root causes of violence that affect far too many children and adults with disabilities.”

The project will first convene a core working group of people involved with addressing violence against people with disabilities—including policymakers, researches, advocates, and people with relevant lived experiences—who will develop a shared roadmap for developing a national coalition. Vera will inform the group’s work by taking stock of existing efforts to address violence against people with disabilities and guiding the strategic planning process. Subsequent phases of the project will focus on expanding the working group into a full-fledged coalition. The coalition will address the immediate priorities identified by the working group, and engage allies, such as those in the disability rights and anti-violence movements, to support long-term goals.

This initiative builds on Vera’s longstanding commitment to address the justice needs of people with disabilities and Deaf people. Most recently, Vera’s Center on Victimization and Safety launched a website dedicated to ending abuse of people with disabilities, which features five first-in-kind guides to help a range of victim service and disability organizations track their progress towards addressing violence against people with disabilities.