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JUNE 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