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CALICO Helps Woman with Disabilities Achieve Justice

When Yolanda came to CALICO, she quickly launched into a detailed description of how an acquaintance sexually assaulted her in a parking lot several years prior. After the assault, Yolanda was examined by a doctor but she was not questioned by law enforcement and was not referred to CALICO. However, when the attacker committed another crime and his DNA was matched to Yolanda’s assault, a detective set up an interview for her at CALICO. At CALICO, Yolanda provided precise details about the traumatic incident, including the name of the man who assaulted her and where he lived. She also recounted how she tried to fight him off, admonishing him that he would go to jail for what he was doing to her. The CALICO interviewer remarked later that it was as if Yolanda had been stuck in that moment, just waiting to tell what had happened to her.

Investigating crimes against persons with developmental disabilities presents unique challenges. Victims with disabilities may have more limited ability to communicate what happened, may be more reticent to speak out of fear of retaliation, and may be more likely to comply with whatever is asked of them (by an interviewer or an offender). Without specialized training, an investigator may have difficulty successfully navigating these factors to sort out what happened and who is responsible.

Thanks to Yolanda and the detective who brought her to CALICO, the offender was arrested, prosecuted and found guilty. In conjunction with the Area Board 5 grant CALICO plans to help professionals in the abuse response field understand the barriers faced by people with disabilities, probe misconceptions about their capacity to aid in investigations, and provide a framework for ensuring they receive the most effective services possible.

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