The First Steps to Ending Domestic Violence


UNDERSTANDING is the first step to ending domestic violence Purple ribbon for Domestic Violence Monthand sexual assault
By: Sharon Langer

Persons with disabilities are victimized at a rate three times higher than persons without disabilities. In 2012, 1.3 million violent crimes, that included rape and physical assault, occurred against persons with disabilities. If you are a woman, or have a cognitive, developmental or psychiatric disability your risk is even higher.

PEOPLE With Disabilities are:
*3 times more likely to experience violent victimization as adolescents
*3 times more likely to experience rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault and robbery
*3 times more likely to be sexually abused as children

WHY? You may ask, is this happening?
There are a number of reasons that contribute to these higher rates. Significant factors include isolation in the community, reliance on caregivers for personal care, limited transportation, and the fact that persons with disabilities are easy targets because of societal stereotypes.

In our Domestic Violence column I will be addressing this very important issue over the next year.

Disability Independence Group has been awarded a Training and Enhanced Services to End Violence Against Women by the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW). We are one of only 6 sites in the country that was awarded these funds this year. With our partners, M.U.J.E.R, a sexual assault and domestic violence center, Dade Legal Aid, that provides representation to victims and CVAC – Miami Dade County’s Victims Assistance Center we will spend the next three years working with experts from the federal government to create sustainable change within and between our organizations that will result in accessible, safe and effective services for victims who are persons with disabilities.

My column will share with you, our readers, what we are learning on this important journey. Any questions? Email me at

aT4 Program: A Glance at the Past and Present


By: Claudia Luna

This summer, I had an incredible opportunity to spend a month abroad in Berlin, Germany. As such a historically significant city, I made it a priority to tour as many museums and monuments as possible. While planning for the trip, I did a lot of research about the various memorials and was surprised to learn that people with disabilities were the first to be targeted by the Nazi regime and the last to receive a monument recognizing their history.t4 monument from a distance in berlin

I dug deeper into the history of the victims and was horrified by what I discovered. In January of 1940, doctors began to meet at a central office at Tiergartenstraße 4 (where the memorial site is now located.) Within those walls, doctors determined who would be targeted based on “usefulness” and ability to contribute to the work force. Those selected would be subject to forced sterilizations or euthanasia. People with intellectual disabilities were the first to be targeted by this Nazi program, known as the T4 Program.

Roughly 70,000 people with disabilities were forcefully euthanized in one of six specially designated T4 centers. Parents were often deceived and told that their children were being sent to improved treatment centers, but in reality were sent to one of these centers. False death certificates were created and families often never found out what happened to their loved ones. While the program officially ended in Germany in 1941, it secretly continued in occupied territories afterward through food deprivation and drug overdoses. Officials now say that there have been more than 300,000 victims of this program across Europe.

Disability advocates fought vehemently for this gruesome history to be rightfully recognized. However, it wasn’t until November of 2011 that the German Parliament agreed to erect the memorial. For years, the site at Tiergartenstraße 4 was simply a bus stop with a plaque describing the horrors that had taken place years before. The memorial was recently completed in September of 2014 and I was fortunate enough to visit it.

The monument consists of a gorgeous 79-foot long bright blue glass wall. Parallel to the glass wall, there is a long counter with information about the T4 program, biographies of the victims and the doctors involved in the planning. I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible the memorial is for various types of disabilities. All the information provided is written with simple language in order to be understood easily. There is also plenty of information transcribed into braille. Multimedia displays offer interpreted videos in sign language for people who are deaf, as well as audio for people with visual impairments. The ground also has a path to follow to accompany the length of the memorial. The surrounding area has been made to be accessible for wheelchair users as well.
I think it’s essential to remember that the victims of the T4 program up close of a panel in the t4 monument in berlinwere the last to have their story recognized and given their rightful memorial. Few of the doctors that participated in the program were ever brought to justice and family members of victims are still fighting for compensation. In spite of this, I am hopeful for the future of disability advocacy in Europe. Throughout my time there, I found small-scale models of monuments labeled with braille in every city, wheelchair accessible swings, and accessible transportation, parks, and museums. The trip was an eye-opening experience and I gained a lot of new perspectives and information that I hope to carry with me for all my future endeavors.

Domestic Violence and the Deaf


The deaf and hard of hearing world is unique because of the difficulty in communicating with others. The world of the victim of domestic violence is also one of isolation and lack of access to the outside world. A batterer typically isolates their victim to instill dependency. When you combine both realities, it is easy to understand why a deaf victim takes up to seven times longer to leave his or her abuser than it would for a hearing victim.

Deaf victims must also struggle with the decision to use the systems and services that even hearing victims find almost im
possible to navigate. There are so many questions that must be addressed: where will I live if I seek a restraining order? What will happen if I go to a shelter? Will someone be able to communicate with me? What will happen to my children? Will I be treated equally if my abuser is a hearing person? Because most folks are unfamiliar with the deaf culture,the victim sometimes has to spend
his or her time educating the providers on the communication and cultural differences of the deaf community rather than being
the recipient of support and services.
The National Association for the Deaf published an article in 2007 titled “Domestic Violence: we can’t ignore it anymore.” It explored why deaf women suffer a greater risk of domestic violence. They
(who?) found that while there has been a lot powerful advocacy work on other issues, the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault have largely been overlooked or misunderstood in the deaf
community. Deaf survivors are unable to seek help from either the hearing or the deaf community. This is largely caused by misconceptions, putting blame on the survivor and the code of silence that still exists in the deaf community.
Now that I have raised the issue… What do we do? We need a two-
prong approach that addresses both outreach and education. We have begun that effort with a committed group of folks who are creating a training for deaf high schoolers in Dade public schools,
and we have begun a dialogue with the provider community and the courts. We will keep you posted on our efforts. If you are
interested in the effort email me…