Crime Victims with Disabilities

Most issues that confront crime victims with disabilities are issues that affect all crime victims. They include underreporting of crimes; a lack of responsiveness from law or prosecutors based on a perceived lack of credibility on the part of the victim; repeated victimization; lack of effective, appropriate services, physical or social isolation of the victim; and a judicial process that is centred on the rights and needs of the offender, not the victim. However, there are important issues and even distinctions that must be emphasized when serving victims with disabilities. According to teaching courses in Mumbai, crime victims with disabilities have a higher risk of victimization than crime victims without disabilities, and face a greater risk of being victimized, often at the hands of a caregiver or family member. Consequently, victims may not be in a position to report the crime without fear of retaliation from the care provider. A crime victim with a disability or a person who becomes disabled due to crime may not have the resources or the physical stamina to cope with the many delays and hurdles that typically occur in the criminal justice system. For example, if a victim is paralyzed as a result of a crime, the victim will be adjusting to this recent disability at the same time that he or she is interacting with the criminal justice system.

The combination may well be overwhelming. Child custody issues are typically complex in cases of domestic violence. When the victim has a disability, the issues maybe further complicated. In the medical system, people with disabilities have historically been considered overwhelming. Child custody issues are typically complex in cases of domestic violence. When the victim has a disability, the issues may be further complicated. According to disability advocates, some courts have awarded custody to the barterer, based on an assumption that children may be better-off with an able-bodied offender than with a victim who has a disability. In the medical system, people with disabilities have historically been considered “victims” of their disabilities, i.e., a “victim” of polio. The term reinforces an already-existing, socially-imposed negative identity.

Disability advocates have struggled to transform their identity from “victim” to something more positive; therefore, admitting “victimization” is often experienced as a setback. Victim advocates have also long been concerned about using language that would include all crime victims and yet not be stigmatizing. Service providers working with crime victims could clarify the issue by asking the victims how they prefer to be characterized. Some individuals may prefer the term survivor, while others may feel that the use of victim is an appropriate word to describe their status in the aftermath of violent or repeated victimization.

Special services: Crime victims with disabilities do not want anything special. They want the rights and services to which they are rightly entitled and request common-sense accommodations to ensure that they can receive them. However, many crime victims (not just those with physical or cognitive disabilities) will need individualized attention and services.