IMPACT: Ability teaches abuse awareness to students with disabilities

by: Caitlin Camara

According to two recent local studies, sexual and domestic violence cases in Massachusetts are at extremely high levels.

Awareness group Jane Doe Inc., 50% of women and 25% of men experience some type of sexual or domestic abuse within their lifetime.

“When I say better [research methodology] I don’t mean bigger, I mean numbers that in fact reflect what the experiences of advocates and experts in the field know about this work,”

says Exec. Director Mary Lauby, who also suggests that the state increase funding for a violence treatment program.

That’s all good and well, but shouldn’t we also be focusing on preventing the problem before it occurs? I’m 100% behind providing treatment for victims, but it would be nice to see awareness being spread as well to cut down on the number of domestic violence cases.

A new program in Boston Public Schools IS taking preventative measures against this abuse.

According to a study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, people with developmental disabilities are 10 times more likely to fall victim to sexual abuse or domestic violence.

Meg Stone, who works for the disability services provider Triangle, says there are particular challenges to abuse prevention for the disabled.

“People with disabilities are often in a position in which other people are involved in their intimate care and their activities of daily living.”

So Stone developed the IMPACT: Ability program. This 10-week course trains the disabled to recognize their personal boundaries, assert them, and defend them by force, if necessary.

This video, which explains how the IMPACT: Ability program works, brought me to tears.

The program received a $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Upon researching the Impact: Ability program, I found it does more than just work with the disabled; it also offers male, female, and co-ed self-defense classes as well.

More awareness and prevention programs like these could lead to a drastic decrease in the amount of sexual and domestic violence cases taking place.


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