About the Indiana Disability Justice & Violence Prevention Task Force

This Disability Awareness Month, we decided to highlight the Indiana Disability Justice and Violence Prevention Taskforce. The Task Force was created by ICADV Prevention Specialist Cierra Olivia Thomas Williams, M.A.

Its current goals are:

  1. Developing and implementing a survey tool to assess safety, independence, and sexual wellness of people with disabilities in Indiana who have experienced sexual harm.
  2. Review state statutes regarding disability. 
  3. Developing and implementing a survey tool to identify what service provision agencies are doing to ensure wellness and independence of the people with disabilities who they serve and how they are preventing harm against people with disabilities.
  4. Developing an online hub for our efforts, which you can find by clicking here!
  5. Implementing at least 5 new webinars focused on disability justice and sexual violence prevention.
  6. Developing and implementing creative, community-building evaluation strategies.

Learn a little more about the work ICADV and the Task Force are doing from Cierra in the Q&A below:

What inspired the creation of the task force?

I have collaborated with disability serving agencies in Indiana since 2009 to prevent sexual violence. I have collaborated with people with developmental and intellectual and other disabilities since 2015. Over the years, I noticed the response to sexual violence was dictated by a hierarchical process with a lot of paperwork, not healing and not restoration for the survivor or the person who caused harm. Through collaborations with disability advocates, disability consultants, and disability serving agencies in Indiana, I learned that there was no standard agency response or best practice information available for a survivor-centered response to sexual violence within such agencies.

Having worked in a local rape crisis centers in Indiana, I knew people with disabilities, particularly those with caregivers, and those with mental illness, were turned away as “not appropriate for service.” This is illegal and unethical creating a gap in services for a population of people who are made more vulnerable to sexual violence through social and structural isolation. In other words, expansive exclusion results in increased risk for sexual violence victimization across the lifespan for neuroatypical people. With the few SV statistics we have, we know the prevalence rate for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities is upwards of 75 percent victimization across the lifespan for all genders. 

Knowing there was no prevalence data for SV at the state level inclusive of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities, which is needed for funding, I became curious about data collection in the state of Indiana. In 2017, I met with or emailed all executive directors for statewide disability advocacy and services agencies and asked about data collection processes at the state level. All parties were interested in gathering to develop a shared sexual violence primary prevention strategy centered on data collection and collaboration. Over a period of three months using numerous forms of formative evaluation methods, a group of 45 people from more than 20 state and local disability organizations identified three goals and over the next two years, we have worked as a task force. We are working to create a sexual violence prevention infrastructure in Indiana that is inclusive of people with intellectual and developmental and other neuro-atypical people. 

Things that make us unique:

  • We are Statewide (Vera TA focus on central Indiana as identified “community”)
  • Application is made by 3 state coalition violence prevention/intervention backbone
  • Approximately one-third of task force members are people with disabilities

Active Members/Agencies:

    1. Tammy Themel, accessABILITY
    2. Cathleen Nine-Altevoight, Adult Protective Services (APS), Adult Guardianship Program, Division of Aging, Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA)
    3. Angela McGinnis, Mom, ICADV Consultant
    4. Tim McGinnis, Son, ICADV Consultant
    5. Amanda Circle, The Arc of Indiana
    6. Heather Dane, Bureau of Developmental Disability Services (BDDS), Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA) 
    7. Richard Propes, Bureau of Quality and  Improvement Services (BQIS), Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA)
    8. Micca Stewart, Bureau of Quality and  Improvement Services (BQIS), Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA)
    9. Center for Health Equity, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC)
    10. Diane Pitmon, ICADV Consultant
    11. Danielle Pitmon, ICADV Consultant
    12. Sara Blume, Families First, ICESA Rape Crisis Center
    13. Cierra Olivia Thomas-Williams, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV)
    14. Haleigh Rigger, Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault (ICESA)
    15. Kat Chappell, Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities (GCPD)
    16. Kristi Linson, Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), Office of Women’s Health & Children’s Special Health Care Services Division
    17. Jody Powers, GCPD Board President, ICADV Consultant
    18. Kelsey Cowley, SAI Vice-President, ICADV Consultant
    19. Skye Kantola, Multicultural Efforts to End Sexual Assault (MESA)
    20. Wendy Waldman, RHI-NeuroRehabilitation Center, Department of Resource Facilitation, RHI-NeuroRehabilitation Center
    21. Sister JackieMcCrackin, Community Program Director, The Village of Merici

Justice Partner: Indiana Disability Rights (IDR)

What lessons have you learned from other task force members that have impacted you the most? 

After working together for two years, the education sub-committee created the Indiana Sexual Violence Prevention and Intervention gap report. The feedback about the sexual violence reporting procedures in Indiana is that it is complicated and centered on legal compliance rather than on healing. This work was a great indicator of where we need to locate our next steps. 

How can they be good allies to People with Disabilities in their own communities?

People can be good allies to people with disabilities by finding out how they can make their immediate environments more accessible. After an internal, online, and external scan of your organizational or home environments and try to make changes that let people with disabilities know they are welcome. I also strongly encourage you to use the resources and attend the upcoming webinars and training opportunities highlighted below:

  • Allies in Action: Disability Allyship Summit Fri, August 21, 2020, 8:30 pm to 5:30 pm – Learn how to be an AUTHENTIC & EFFECTIVE ALLY to the Disability Community. Learn more here.
  • Learn about the Indiana Abuse Prevention Disability Task Force’s work and disability justice and sexual violence primary prevention in our online community Patreon community. Visit our disability justice and sexual violence primary prevention YouTube channel featuring the 2018-2020 webinar series. 
  • Multicultural Efforts to End Sexual Assault and Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence in collaboration with the Indiana Abuse Prevention Disability Task Force (APDTF) presents DISABILITY JUSTICE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE PREVENTION WEBINAR SERIES

How can people get involved with the task force? 

If people are interested in becoming involved with the Indiana Abuse Prevention Disability Task Force they can email the leadership team at INdisabiltyjustice@gmail.com. You will reach Skye Kantola, Cierra Olivia Thomas-Williams and Tammy Themmel. 


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