Local and national advocates work so people with disabilities lead safer lives

12/14/2009
News
Betty Schwieterman
Director of Systems Advocacy

During October 2009 two major national events took place which will help people with disabilities work toward safer lives.

The first national study on crime against persons with disabilities was released by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics on October 1.

President Obama signed an expanded hate crimes bill into law, making it a federal offense to commit a crime against a person based on their disability on October 28.

Meanwhile Washington State held its annual conference addressing crimes against elders and people with disabilities.

"First estimates of victimization against persons with disabilities"

The Justice Department’s national study is based on data collected in 2007 from interviews for the National Crime Victimization Survey. Data in this report represent the first estimates of victimization of people with disabilities produced in response to the 1998 Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act. The report did not study victimization rates in facilities such as nursing homes or institutions. 

Findings include:

  • The age-adjusted rate of nonfatal violent crimes against persons with disabilities was 1.5 times higher than the rate for those without disabilities.        
  • Persons age 12 to 19 and those age 35 to 49 with a disability experienced violence at nearly twice the rate as persons of the same age groups without a disability. 
  • The age-adjusted rate of violent crime against females with a disability was almost twice the rate for females without a disability.  
  • Males with a disability also experienced higher age-adjusted rates of violence than males without a disability.    
  • More than half of violent crimes against people with disabilities were against those with more than one type of disability.  
  • Persons with cognitive disabilities had a rate of nonfatal violent crime higher than the rates for persons with other types of disabilities.       
  • Nearly one in five violent crime victims with a disability believed that they became a victim because of their disability.

"No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability"  

Later in the same month, President Obama said “No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability” and signed an expanded hate crimes bill into law making it a federal offense to commit a crime against a person based on their disability. 

Under the new law, hate crimes protections will now include crimes committed based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Federal law already includes protections for crimes committed based on race, color, religion or national origin. The new law also gives federal authorities more leeway to investigate and prosecute suspected hate crimes when local authorities are unwilling or unable to act.

Sixth Annual conference addresses Crimes Against Elders and People with Disabilities: diverse groups collaborate

These two national events provide new data and new tools for people with disabilities to advocate for safer lives. Here in Washington State, on October 19th and 20th the sixth annual conference addressing crimes against elder and people with disabilities brought law enforcement, adult protection workers, domestic violence, sexual assault, disability and elder advocates together in Bellevue, WA to learn about recognizing and responding to adult abuse and holding offenders accountable. Disability Rights Washington is a member of the planning committee and advocates for increased recognition and response to violence against people with disabilities. 

Issues: 
Freedom from abuse and neglect