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Preventing Abuse in Canada’s Disability Community

August 21, 2014

arton15198-9c218For some time, abuse has plagued Canada’s disability community. It doesn’t need to be this way in the future.

If Canadians of all ability levels ban together to prevent mistreatment of people with disabilities, Canada will become a safer place.

No one says preventing abuse will be easy, but by diligently applying the action steps listed in this blog post (adapted from The People’s Law School’s free booklet, “Abuse of People with Disabilities for Service Providers”), people with disabilities may experience safer surroundings.

Here are some steps you can take to guard Canadians with disabilities from abuse:

• Be sure people with disabilities are involved in communities.

• Equip people with tools to make life decisions.

• Help establish people with disabilities to live as independently as possible.

• Make people with disabilities aware of their human rights and help them fully understand disability rights.

When it comes to preventing abuse, service providers can play important roles in safeguarding people with disabilities. If you provide disability services, incorporate these steps into your work practices:

• Fully understand the prevalence of abuse in Canada and seek to know how this affects the disability community.

• Be able to recognize signs of abuse.

• “Listen to, believe, and act on reports of abuse by people with disabilities.”

• Respect that many people with disabilities make their own life decisions and encourage them to make healthy choices.

• Create relationships with victim services and help open lines of communication between these entities and abuse victims.

If you are aware that a person with disability is being abused, it is important that you take action. However, before you can act on the individual’s behalf, try to understand the full extent of the situation. Sometimes having a private conversation with the abuse victim is the best help you can offer.

Here are some questions The People’s Law School recommends asking:

• Are you having trouble? Can I help you?

• Can I contact a friend for you?

• How would you like to be assisted?

Usually one conversation will not reveal the full extent of abuse. It is more likely that details will come out over time. If this is the case, it may be best for you to offer support and let the details of abuse unravel with time. To ensure this occurs, follow these steps:

• Create a safe space by making sure the environment where you host conversations is clean and private.

• Encourage trust by assuring the individual that you will hold these details in confidence, unless you fear his or her life, or the life of someone else is in danger.

• Layout the options a person has when reporting abuse and explain the costs and benefits of each choice.

• Empower the individual to make a personal decision to report abuse.

• Contact victim services on the individual’s behalf. Try to get his or her permission before making contact, but do not hesitate to reach out if the circumstances are dire. 

The best way to stop abuse is to file a report with a trusted authority or victim service.

If a victim of abuse does not want you to file any reports, there may be other action steps that can help eliminate abuse. However, if the individual is in danger, or if another person is at risk, it may be necessary to report abuse without explicit permission.

When looking for the right protective services to file a report, use “Abuse of People with Disabilities for Service Providers” as a guide. The free booklet provided by The People’s Law School offers preventative resources, victim services and disability websites at the end of the document.

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