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Abuse and Disabilities

Independence House, Inc. has secured a renewable grant from the MA Department of Public Health and is collaborating with Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled (CORD) to offer strategies in the prevention of sexual violence to organizations who serve people with disabilities.

Individuals faced with intellectual and development disabilities make up one of the most vulnerable populations to be sexually assaulted or sexually abused and face a higher risk of being victimized by sexual violence.

In this section:  Newsletters, Videos, Statistics, Community Level Strategy, Resources and a monthly Blog

As part of this collaboration, Independence House and CORD offer workshops and distribute material. Independence House offers a spectrum of resources and services for survivors of sexual and domestic violence who are living with different disabilities, and CORD offers specialized services for individuals with disabilities.

People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population


49% will be sexually assaulted 10 times or more in their lifetime


Only 3% of assaults are reported compared to 23% reported by the general population

Community Level Strategy
A community level strategy is a relatively new approach to the prevention of sexual violence. Independence House and CORD are working with organizations that will support the healthy relationships of the people that each organization serves. 

Each organization will begin on the ground level in taking action to address sexual violence.  Organizations are asked to be BOLD and BRAVE in doing this work and join us to say YES in strengthening their organization to address sexual violence.

What do we mean by a community level strategy for the prevention of sexual violence?
A community level strategy is a process whereby each organization looks at its policies that assess:

  • The possible risk of harm and strengthen identified gaps
  • The need for employees and volunteers to have training about the prevention of sexual violence
  • Employee codes of conduct
  • Screening process for prospective employees and volunteers
  • Physical spaces that reduce the risk of sexual violence
  • Procedures for disclosing sexual violence

Most Recent Blog Post

JULY 2020 Blog | Initial Steps for the Prevention of Sexual Violence

In our last blog, we talked about the higher risk of sexual assault against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the importance of providing healthy sexuality education for individuals with IDD.  In addition, we also need to put prevention measures in place within our own communities or organizations.

A client, Susan B., comes to her day program, looking very upset. Her supervisor approaches Susan and asks if something is wrong, but she just shakes her head and says nothing.  Susan gets to work on her activity, is slower than usual and barely speaks to her co-workers, two of whom are good friends of hers. For the next week, Susan’s behavior remains the same.

One day her good friend Amy, tries to talk to Susan.  Amy tells her a joke and invites her for ice cream, which Susan loves, after they get home and Susan just shakes her head and mumbles, “somebody touched me.”  Amy is concerned and talks to the supervisor.  “I don’t like the way Susan is acting, I think something is wrong, says Amy.”

Amy knew to go to the supervisor because she saw a sign, hanging in the waiting room and another one on the lunch room bulletin board that said she could talk with someone if she felt unsafe. Amy thought maybe Susan felt unsafe and that she should do something.

So, this is a first step in an organization taking steps to promote safety and well being to all the people that they serve.  The organization made a commitment to have a policy that promotes safety and they had a process by which they included all staff, board and volunteer members to have input into this policy.  With the input of all staff, board and volunteers, there is “buy in” to the policy and that makes everyone accountable for their actions.  The statement was then posted in a public place for all clients and family members to see.

A sample statement can read as thus:

The ABC Health Center is committed to the safety and well-being of all the people that we serve.  We are taking steps to educate our staff, board members and volunteers about the prevalence and signs of sexual violence and its effects on individuals. We are also taking steps towards prevention of sexual violence by strengthening our policies and practices that protect the people that we serve from the risk of sexual violence.*

For more information on this first step and other steps to take, to make your organization a safe place by creating a culture of sexual violence prevention, contact Chris Morin at or Merrill Pontes at

*Resource for this blog from the Enough Abuse Campaign,

To learn more about abuse and disabilities, visit our dedicated web page at

For more information, please contact:
Chris Morin, Independence House, Inc., Director of Prevention,Education and Outreach at or
Merrill Pontes, CORD Domestic Violence Grant Coordinator at

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