In October 2013 a weekly support group was started in response to a growing need expressed by clients in the organization’s Visually-Impaired Victims Services program. Members of the visually-impaired crime victim support group offer emotional comfort and moral support to each other as well as sharing their personal experiences and practical tips for managing the trauma of criminal victimization. The group is facilitated by a trained victim advocate who provides participants with assistance in finding their own individual pathway from trauma to healing in all areas of their lives.
Reconnecting with other people is a vital part of building a new life after trauma. The opportunity to share emotions and thoughts openly in a support group of people facing similar challenges is a powerful tool for gaining hope and a new vision for the future. Through sharing experiences clients gain understanding about the effects of trauma and reduce feelings of isolation, distress and anxiety. They build coping skills, find resources, and gain the sense of empowerment that is vital to managing the changes people experience when they are recovering from trauma.
CTJH initially became aware of the needs of the visually-impaired crime victim population on Maryland’s Eastern Shore through a client who came to the organization seeking support three years ago. This individual was employed at the widely-used Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (http://www.bism.org/) facility in Salisbury, Maryland. They contacted CTJH because they had been unable to find the victim support services they needed on the Eastern Shore. They knew other people who were also seeking services tailored to the needs of visually impaired individuals. As a result of this call, services from first response through the criminal justice process and beyond are now provided in a manner specifically designed to address the needs of this underserved group on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Visually impaired victims of crime are often underserved. According to a Bureau of Justice statistics study from 2011, almost 8 million people of working age (18 to 64 years old) in the United States are visually disabled (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011; Brault, 2012; Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, 2012). And persons who have a disability are three times more likely to be the victim of a serious violent crime than those who do not.
Crime victims with disabilities are universally recognized to be an underserved population (Victim's Assistance Legal Organization, 2011). In spite of the high rate of victimization among the disabled, many victim service providers report that they seldom serve clients from this population (Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice, 2008) . The reasons for this are many and complex, ranging from the discrimination and marginalization faced by disabled people overall, to the even more severe problems that come about as a result of a violent crime. Depending on their individual circumstances they may face problems with mobility and travel, difficulty understanding that they have been criminally victimized rather than simply mistreated, and difficulty giving and receiving information on forms that are not designed for people who have a disability. Disabled crime victims can face challenges of conflicting survival priorities if the perpetrator is a caregiver. The visually impaired require extra care and support that they very often do not receive. This can create a situation of severe hardship and complex trauma when specialized services are not available. CTJH has a specific focus on helping those who are most frequently overlooked and revictimized, often as a result of previously-existing trauma and/or disability that has been exacerbated by a new episode of violent crime.
Brault, M. W. (2012). Americans With Disabilities: 2010. Washington DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p70-131.pdf
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011). Criminal Victimization in the United States 2011: Statistical Tables. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Fallot, R. D. (2011). Trauma-Informed Care: A Values-Based Context for Psychosocial Empowerment. Preventing Violence Against Women and Children: Workshop Summary (pp. 97-102). Washington D.C.: National Academies Press.
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Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. (2008). Promising Practices for Serving Crime Victims With Disabilities (Toolkit). Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice.
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics. (2012). 2012 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium. Durham, NH: U.S. Department of Education, National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research.
Victim's Assistance Legal Organization. (2011). Gaining Insight, Taking Action: Basic skills for serving victims. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://www.ovc.gov/publications/infores/pdftxt/GainingInsight.pdf