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New Project Announcement: The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disabilities® and The Board Resource Center

Building Capacity of Primary Care Providers to Discuss Sexual Violence with Women with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities


In September of this year, The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD) was awarded a one-year grant from The Special Hope Foundation. Working with The Board Resource Center, a California-based consulting firm, this funding will be used to teach health care professionals about how to address and help prevent sexual violence against women with intellectual/ developmental disabilities (IDD).


This project will address the alarmingly high rate of sexual violence experienced by women with IDD. About 20% of all women are sexually abused each year. However, women and girls with developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to face sexual abuse. Up to 68% of women with developmental disabilities will be abused before they are 18, and up to 90% will experience abuse during their lives (Valenti-Hein, D. & Schwartz, L. 1995).

Health care providers are in a unique position to have open dialogue about sexual violence prevention with their female patients. However, many times they do not have experience talking about victimization with women with IDD in a manner that is accessible and culturally competent for all. In order for providers to have meaningful conversations about the high risk of violence people with IDD face, they need training on effective ways to provide patients with safe environments to share their experiences, often for the first time.

By learning how to use effective plain language communication strategies, they can provide a safe place for women to share openly. These strategies can improve communication with all patients, since plain language strategies apply to a number of different populations who struggle with comprehension of information. Ultimately, this project will improve health care delivery by giving providers effective tools to support women with IDD to discuss or disclose sexual violence.

Project Objectives

This project, funded by The Special Hope Foundation, builds the capacity of primary care providers to discuss the high risk of sexual violence women with IDD face. It will equip providers with training and tools to create safe, open, and accessible conversations about what sexual violence is and what women can do to report it or stop it from happening. Together, and under the guidance of an advisory committee, we will achieve the following objectives to decrease the incidence of sexual violence: 1) Develop two training videos and materials on discussing sexual violence with female patients. 2) Disseminate tools to health care organizations, regional centers, advocacy groups, and people with IDD and their families, ultimately reaching 500,000 individuals. 

Both The Arc and The Board Resource Center have a shared vision that emphasizes accessibility, education, and empowerment for people with IDD.


Valenti-Hein, D. & Schwartz, L. (1995). The sexual abuse interview for those with developmental disabilities. James Stanfield Company. Santa Barbara: California.