At Risk: Disproportionately, the Disabled are Criminal Victims

Feb 3, 2017 | Articles and Publications

It shocked the nation. At the beginning of this year, a disabled 18-year-old, suffering from schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder, was held and tortured by people who chose to broadcast the violence to the world via Facebook Live. But the most unusual thing about the incident, advocates for people with disabilities told the New York Times, was the fact that it was documented.

Violence against people with disabilities happens far more often than most people apprehend, and it frequently is not detected at all, per advocates. When it is, it often isn’t taken seriously.


The rate of serious violent crime for persons with disabilities was more than three times the rate for persons without disabilities, per Bureau of Justice statistics.

The good news is there are a growing number of resources available for victims of crime to help heal, find care and even gain financial support.

Advocacy and Help

VictimConnect offers crime victims a source they can access confidentially and compassionately to understand their rights and options, find information and connect with resources, access referrals to other professional service organizations and craft next steps to regain control over their lives. You can call the organization at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846), or visit the website to chat with a victim assistance specialist. The website has gathered lists of resources for many specific types of abuse, including domestic violence, elder abuse, homicide and grief, human trafficking, sexual assault, and stalking.

VictimConnect is funded in through a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice. Founded in 1988, the OVC is charged by Congress with administering the Crime Victims Fund. Through OVC, the fund supports a broad array of programs and services to help victims in the immediate aftermath of crime and continue to support them as they rebuild their lives. It invests millions of dollars annually in victim compensation and assistance in every U.S. state and territory, as well as in training, technical assistance, and other capacity-building programs designed to support victims of crime in communities across the nation. Visit the site to seek specific help in your area (navigate a map of the nation by clicking on your state), learn about your rights as a victim and explore an extensive library and multimedia archive.

The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, funded by individual and corporate contributions as well as government grants, that advocates for stronger rights, protections and services for crime victims. It also provides education, training and evaluation, and serves as a trusted source of current information on victims’ issues. The NCVC emerged from one family’s tragedy: in 1985, Ala Isham and Alexander Auersperg originally established the center as the Sunny Von Bulow National Victim Advocacy Center. The NCVC websites seems to have particular depth when it comes to training, employment opportunities and finding very local help.

Deaf-Specific Organizations

There are at least two groups specifically oriented towards helping deaf people. The Abused Women’s Deaf Advocacy Group (ADWAS), has working with communities, local agencies, and supporters to end violence and to build healthy communities since 1986. It’s aided more than 2,800 clients and offered education and training to some 43,000 people. The Deaf Anti-Violence Coalition (DAVC), founded in 2001, works to end domestic and sexual violence in the deaf community through advocacy, awareness and empowerment. It sponsors the Justice for Deaf Victims National Coalition (JDVNC) page on Facebook, and produces a vlog in ASL on YouTube.

Other groups with broader missions have focused some of their resources on the Deaf. The Violence Against Women organization, publishes online resources that include a presentation titled ‘Violence in the Lives of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing’ that focuses specifically on dynamics in violent situations where the victims are deaf people.

Some communities have spearheaded local efforts to better help deaf victims of crime. The Christian Science Monitor reports that police in Cleveland are beginning to widely disseminate video phones to police officers, so that they can more quickly and capably communicate with deaf crime victims. The Department of Public Safety in South Carolina awarded Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funding to the State Department of Mental Health Services to deliver comprehensive victim assistance to deaf and hard-of-hearing crime victims in fifteen counties in upstate South Carolina.

DIS works with law enforcement across the country to provide pro bono sign language & tri-lingual interpreters to victims of human trafficking.

Criminals choose disproportionately to prey on victims they imagine as especially vulnerable.  But with the help of organizations such as those listed here, victims have hope of more quickly finding help, rebuilding their lives and identifying opportunities both to support other individuals and advocate on behalf of their community.

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