Introducing the FIRST Collaboration
This month we are highlighting one of Clove’s newest initiatives, The FIRST Collaboration. The goals of this initiative are to ensure all individuals with disabilities will be guaranteed a safe environment, free from sexual violence and to empower them to speak and act for themselves. Kerrie Blanton, Director of Case Management at Clove Alliance, serves as the facilitator of this group. She describes the meaning behind the collaboration’s name. “The name of the collaboration comes from putting the individual FIRST and not their disability, which is very important. It also focuses on being victim centered and showing disability humility.”
The FIRST Collaboration aims to bring together disability service providers from our community to work on the improvement of services and our response to survivors of sexual violence. The collaboration meets on a monthly basis to discuss ways to improve services, provide staff training for disability service agencies, learn how to better meet the needs of the survivor, and also conducts case review when situations involving sexual violence within the disability community occur.
Statistics show that individuals with a disability are at a higher risk of sexual victimization. A survey conducted by the Spectrum Institute Disability and Abuse Project found that 70% of respondents with disabilities experienced some form of abuse by an intimate partner, family member, caregiver, acquaintance or stranger. People with disabilities may also be less likely to be taken seriously when they make a report of sexual assault or abuse. They may also face challenges in accessing services to make a report. We are hoping that with further education and awareness provided through the FIRST Collaboration, we can reduce the occurrences of sexual violence toward individuals with disabilities, make the reporting process more accessible, and ensure that individuals who report sexual violence are believed and treated with respect and compassion.
If your agency or group is interested in joining the collaboration, please reach out to Kerrie Blanton, Director of Case Management at [email protected] or at 815-932-7273 ex 216.