Vera has worked on the following projects to close the research gap in services for survivors with disabilities:

Evaluating Organizational Capacity to Serve Survivors with Disabilities: Moving Toward Accessible and Responsive Services 

Vera helped disability and domestic violence organizations, as well as rape crisis centers, develop performance indicators to measure progress in improving services for people with disabilities and Deaf people. Despite being at high risk for domestic and sexual violence, people with disabilities and Deaf people are largely underserved by victim service providers. 

Indicators are an important and practical tool that the staff of organizations can use to track their progress toward meeting goals over time; identify areas in which they are effective; and identify those in need of further development. Vera also developed a detailed implementation guide to assist agency staff at implementing the indicators—including information on what data needs to be collected, how and when it should be collected, and how to calculate and interpret agency scores. By helping organizations improve their services for people with disabilities and Deaf people, Vera aims to secure more equal justice for these survivors. 

The indicator systems were piloted in ten communities across the country in the summer of 2014, and published in a November 2015 report. This project was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. 

Examining Criminal Justice Responses to and Help Seeking Patterns of Sexual Violence Survivors with Disabilities

This study—the first of its kind in the U.S.—examined the experiences of sexual violence survivors with disabilities as they report their trauma and navigate the criminal justice system. The study was conducted in partnership with a large district attorney’s office and a community-based, non-residential program providing services to people with disabilities, with support from a local rape crisis center. 

This is the first study in the U.S. to examine prosecutorial data and among the first to conduct qualitative interviews on sexual trauma reporting for people with disabilities. The study’s objectives included: 

  • describe reports of sexual assault by people with disabilities (for example, number of reports over time, characteristics of survivors, type and frequency of victimizations);
  • assess how these cases proceed through the criminal court system compared to those of survivors without disabilities —including factors influencing case outcomes at each decision point; and
  • describe experiences of sexual assault survivors with disabilities seeking help from formal and informal sources in the community. This includes community-based interviews exploring how survivors seek help, their experiences reporting victimization, and outcomes of that reporting.

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, the study significantly advanced existing knowledge and addressed critical gaps in our understanding of the justice system and community-based service providers respond to victims with disabilities. The study also promoted informed discourse and best practices to secure equal justice for survivors with disabilities.