Helping People with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities Learn “The Rules of Sex”

I my experience, individuals with cognitive and/or communication disabilities do not receive any attention to their sexual system as they are growing up. There is a lot of attention to other things, sometimes even including the reproductive system, CNS (central nervous system) including the cognitive system, but not much to their psychological well-being, unfortunately.

As they are growing up, there are many demands on parents to help children with FASD or on the FAS Spectrum, as well as parents with children with other disabilities, including taking care of their hygiene needs long after their age peers have mastered tooth-brushing, etc. However, providing information and guidance about changes in the body during puberty are often not discussed, inadvertently contributing to traumas the children experience.

Two quick examples are the little girls who believe they are dying when their menses begins, as no one has ever informed them about the normalcy of menstruation. One little girl who I knew before her first menstruation had a mother who had told her about the internal and external changes that occur in the body as we change from childhood to adulthood. One day I received a very excited telephone call from her. She excitedly and proudly announced that she had her very first menstrual period, and now she is entering adulthood and we should have a party to celebrate! So we did!

The second is of a little boy on the Autism Spectrum who had an erection while at school in the boys bathroom. He could not urinate. He was terrified that his penis had broken. He ran crying to his teacher, holding his penis in his hand, fearing his body had failed him. Imagine how much better that experience could have been for him had his parents explained normal bodily functions.

There are many stories like this on this topic, on the failure of parents to inform their children of the ways the body changes on the way to adulthood, that changes come at different times for each child, and that we can celebrate the changes when they occur.

In addition to providing information about the body itself, teens and young adults must receive information about how, when, where, and with whom they can share sexual pleasuring. There are social niceties to be sure, but even more important are legal prohibitions. Children, teens and young adults must be taught clearly, directly, explicitly exactly what one is allowed to do to oneself and with others sexually. About privacy, about who is allowed to touch whom, about permission to touch, or show oneself, and asking to see other’s genitals or other sexual body parts.

I do not use the term “private parts”. I am a literal thinker and figure if there are private parts then the rest must be public parts. The issue in the generic community is that specific permission must be obtained before touching the private parts of another person, but frankly, I don’t like people just touching me because they can reach! I prefer people to ask permission. My body is not public property! I have a sense of bodily integrity, that my body belongs only to me. To separate out the parts that are mine and the parts that others can touch is too complex. I like the idea of personal integrity and choice. That’s why I use the term sexual body parts, to identify exactly what they are. And, those are different (different purpose) than reproductive body parts. It is a different system with a different although related purpose. One is for reproduction, one is for pleasure. Although they go hand in hand, they are different.

I co-wrote the book to which David Boulding refers, “The Rules of Sex: For Those Who Have Never Been Told” to begin a campaign for sex education BEFORE or even better, WITHOUT the justice system being involved. I have had too many clients charged with victimless crimes (usually public masturbation) who wind up in court, and the court refers them to my diversion program where they are finally provided the information they should have had and with which they would never have wound up in jail.

Taking the laws in the State of California from the Penal Code, Welfare and Institutions Code, Health Code as well as California’s Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, we wrote the book to describe in detail what one is not allowed to do, what one is allowed to do, and how to know the difference. When we completed the book, we decided we were missing some essential information, including social mores, values, and religious perspectives on sexuality.

I then sent the book around to several types of professionals: police and sheriff, prosecutors, defense attorneys, individuals with developmental disabilities and/or their parents, disability advocacy specialists. I wanted to be sure the book was legally accurate, factually accurate, easy to understand for the reader with learning disabilities and fully accessible for parents, counselors, probation officers and others. It was then revised and made available. Requests for translation to Spanish were quick to appear, so we translated the book into Spanish.

I know that had Aaron Hart’s parents read this book and read it and explained it to their son, he would not have wound up with a 100 year prison sentence for taking his neighbor friend to the garage and doing a little “let’s play doctor” and “let’s try this”. At just 18 years of age, this young man with moderate mental retardation, was “doing what comes naturally”, while the law says, “ignorance of the law is no excuse” for breaking the law. It breaks my heart.

I believe that ignorance is not bliss but rather creates opportunity for those with developmental disabilities to find themselves in trouble for reasons about which they have no idea.

I remember clearly one client who I saw a couple of days after he was released from jail on bail. I had read the papers, he was charged with sodomy. I asked him what he had been arrested for. He said, “they said sodomy”. I asked, “what does that mean”? He said, “I don’t know”. There are several definitions of sodomy but he knew none of them. He did not know why he had been arrested. He had gone to play basketball with his neighborhood friends like always, but this day, the cops came and all the rest ran away and were not caught in the bathroom where they were playing their usual bathroom games. Sound familiar? The guy with disabilities being the only one caught, the only one arrested, processed through a court proceeding that was embarrassing and humiliating for him and his family?

That’s why I believe it is the responsibility of the parents, the schools, and the disability support services agencies to ensure that education about sexual conduct is essential. Not only for the reasons detailed above, but also to give them a vocabulary and information that allow them to identify and report sexual abuse when that happens.

You can purchase the book from my website: Your options are to purchase the printed book or to order a PDF copy that you can download yourself.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. And, kudos to David Boulding for his article on the topic of “The Rules of Sex.” (

20/20 Show Should Have Condemned Law Enforcement, Not Facilitated Communication

Last night I watched the 20/20 program which purported to be an “investigative report” on the use of Facilitated Communication, and how using this method of communication, an entire family’s life was torn apart.

The one hour program showed footage of a Michigan family. Their then 14 year-old daughter who has autism was said to have disclosed that her father sexually molested her and that her brother had seen this happen.

They showed the girl being interviewed in a typical CAC – type interview setting (Child Advocacy Center). These Centers began in the early 90’s to address a very serious problem. Suspected child abuse victims were being interviewed on average over 20 times by different responders including patrol, Child Protective Services (CPS) emergency personnel, then a variety of police officers (detective, child abuse detail officers), CPS specialists, medical personnel, etc.

To fix this problem CAC’s were developed to ensure one interview (or more if needed) with one interviewer, while the other critical partners (law enforcement, CPS, prosecution) viewed the interview from another room behind a one-way mirror. They could send questions to the interviewer to ask. Thus the investigative needs of all relevant agencies could be met without traumatizing the child. Then grew a new profession: child abuse forensic interviewers. These were carefully trained individuals, who usually are required to complete a 40-hour course in order to be certified for this work.

In the case of this child, the interview was videotaped, and the positioning of the camera showed only the back of the interviewer (there probably was another camera somewhere so that her face was shown), the child and the communication facilitator.

The narrator began a description of FC that does not fit with all I have learnt about FC, although I have heard it said before. He said that Facilitated Communication is a therapy for children unable to speak. As a psychologist, I perhaps have a different and clearer understanding of what therapy does. Therapy helps individuals obtain relief from distressing situations…marital conflict, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. However, FC is not designed for relief from distressing situations. Facilitated Communication allows individuals who cannot use spoken or written language without assistance, to be able to type with the physical assistance of a trained communication support person. I have often, however, treated individuals who use FC to communicate. But, that is not therapy. So, I disagree with the program when they assert that FC is a therapy.

Next, the narrator states that the facilitator for this suspected child abuse forensic interview had only had one hour of FC training. One hour? Now, I do not mind that she had completed one hour of training, but that certainly does not qualify her to provide services to anyone! One hour? I recently attended several conferences that included information about FC and I came away with the fact that it takes at least one year to master the skills of FC, and that ongoing skill building is an important aspect of supporting individuals who use FC. There is a protocol to be followed, there are standards of practice, there is so much to be learned about FC, that even I know one hour of training is completely inadequate and inappropriate.

In July of 2011, I joined hundreds of others in Boston at MIT where the Summer Institute on Communication and Inclusion was held. I attended this 3-day conference where many aspects of FC were discussed. I learned that as many different people as there are, there are different types of support required, and it is up to the facilitator to learn these variations, and to be flexible with the different persons whom they will support.

Frankly, after learning that the facilitator approved by the CAC team to work with the alleged child abuse victim had only had one hour of training, I was completely shocked. I asked myself, what other member of the child abuse response team had only had one hour of training for the job? The prosecutor? No. The forensic interviewer? No. The police officers? No. How about the camera operator? No. Perhaps the individuals who built the interview room? No. Maybe the….well, I just could not think of anyone in such a critical position that the law enforcement community would approve that had one hour of job training.

The narrator goes on to say many things to negate the appropriate use of Facilitated Communication. They show the titles of many articles that deny the efficacy of FC…which are flawed studies with flawed methods that of course result in flawed findings. The show had an obvious bias against the use of FC.

But FC was not the problem, in my mind. FC was blamed for the system’s failure. It was later revealed that the facilitator with one hour of training had manipulated the child’s communication. The accusations of the alleged victim were a complete fabrication. Yet the law enforcement community maintained that they had “done their job” and were not responsible for the obvious errors in responding to the initial report. It is not FC that caused the problems. It was the law enforcement community who had not done due diligence in learning about how FC actually works, how FC actually is conducted, and adhering to the Standards of Practice.

It seems to me that anyone listening to the narrator say that the law enforcement community allowed someone with one hour of training to basically be the foundation of this case, would say, “what is the matter with them?” However, the focus was not on the failure of the system, it was on the method of communication used by the child.

I guess that’s one way to “redirect” blame for one’s failures. But it is not the right way. Law enforcement: get it together! Get training in place for all of your personnel about individuals with disabilities, including those who use augmentative and assistive technology. And, make sure, that you get more than one-hour of training. One hour doesn’t come near the amount of time required to work with suspected child abuse victims at any level.

At the end of the show, the reporter is basically chasing after the woman who did the facilitated communication during that disastrous interview. She would not stop to talk to the reporter. He said, she is now working at a retail store in sales. I guess the show felt it was important to say that. I’m sure there is an underlying message there. I think they wanted the viewer to think, “Oh, she tried a career in FC but since FC is a farce, she has worked her way up the career ladder to retail sales.” Whatever that means. What it means to me was that she was likely so scarred by her experience, and by her (IMHO) wrong decision to take on a responsibility for which she was woefully and obviously unprepared, that she found employment in a much safer environment.

So, I am left with the question, what was the motivation of 20/20 to do this “expose”, which is only an expose of the failures of the criminal justice system, and not the failure of FC as a method of communication? I suppose I could write to them and ask. What was their objective? What did they want to achieve? And, I would want to know if they think they achieved it. Again, it left me with the information I had suspected all along, knowing of this case from years ago. That the training needed by those responding to suspected child abuse victims with disabilities was not in place. They responded flooded with ignorance, and not with information. Information that was available to them at the time. And now even more information is available to them. For free!

The two law enforcement training DVD’s that my team at the Arc of Riverside County (in California) produced under a grant from the U.S Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime could have helped them. These are: VICTIMS WITH DISABILITIES: THE FORENSIC INTERVIEW, and VICTIMS WITH DISABILITIES: MULTIDISCIPLINARY, COLLABORATIVE FIRST RESPONSE. These DVD’s and the accompanying training guides, provide essential basic information on how to best work with suspected crime victims with disabilities. How to effectively intervene when individuals use augmentative or assistive technology to communicate is described. Had those criminal justice professionals involved with the Michigan case described by 20/20 adhered to the principles and techniques described in these videos, the trauma they caused this family would never have happened.

But, think if the many persons who could have spoken up and said, “you are hiring someone with one hour of training to serve in a critical position of communication assistance, analogous to a translator, to conduct your forensic interview? What is the matter with you?” But no one did. All conspired together, including the unqualified facilitator who also agreed. But that was not the take away message by the narrator. The take away message was that FC is no miracle cure, but rather a dangerous technique that betrays individuals, families and entire communities.

FC was never “promoted” as a miracle cure. FC is a valuable communication technique that allows people who cannot use their voice, to be able to express their thoughts. That is all. When used properly, as any interpretation method, it is effective for communication. But when you hire unqualified people for a critical job, disaster is bound to ensue. And it did. But then, don’t blame the method, blame those who decided to employ an unqualified interpreter.

Can you imagine hiring a court interpreter who has had only one hour of training in that language? Or even one hour of training for courtroom interpretation? I am fluent in Spanish, and have translated both in small settings and at large public meetings by the County. But I have never been trained in the language of the court, or the complex legal concepts that are discussed in court. I would not be qualified to be a courtroom interpreter. And, if given one hour to prepare, I still would be far, far from qualified.

So who is to blame for this debacle? The law enforcement community who decided to hire then depend upon an unqualified and unprepared interpreter? The interpreter who agreed to do the work? The law enforcement community who failed to hire a second facilitator to validate the first interview? The law enforcement community who participated in the abusive interrogation of the brother, who is reportedly still feeling the traumatic sequelae of that experience? The law enforcement community who was unable to find any external corroborating evidence for the allegations yet arrested and jailed the father, removed the children from their family home and prohibited contact among the children and their parents? Really, FC is to blame?

No, 20/20. You put the emphasis on the wrong factor in this case. I recommend a do-over, where you look at the incompetence of the law enforcement community and make the proper recommendations. Only hire qualified personnel for this critical work. Train your staff. Revise your policies and practices to reflect standards of practice. Admit your wrongdoing. The prosecutor says he is blameless. I do not agree. Do you?

Conference in Orlando Florida, 12/11: Responding to Crime Victims with Disabilities

This was the second conference fully sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) of the U.S. Department of Justice. It was held in a beautiful resort hotel in Orlando, at the J.W. Marriott, with overflow accommodations at the nearby Ritz Carlton only a two-minute walk away on the same property. Nearly 500 people attended from all over the United States as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Marianas, including 80 presenters who shared their knowledge and expertise. It was a fantastic showing, probably the best of any conference of this kind to date!

The overall allocation for this conference, at $550,000, had been awarded to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC). NCVC was the host of both conferences fully funded by OVC focusing on this topic. The first was held in Denver, Colorado in October of 2009, with Kevin O’Brian of NCVC at the helm. This is a huge investment to support crime victims with disabilities, and demonstrates the ongoing commitment of OVC to these victims. This level of commitment is deeply appreciated by those of us “in the trenches” who have for years been advocating for victims of crimes who have disabilities.

All of this is primarily due to the commitment and advocacy of Joye Frost, the Acting Director of OVC, who for over a decade has made attention to crime victims with disabilities one of her deepest concerns. In the opening keynote address, Joye spoke of her commitment, and how gratified she felt to see so many people in attendance. Without Joye, there would not have been this conference, much less the Denver conference, nor other conferences for which financial support has been provided by OVC. She has made a huge difference in supporting awareness and skills-building efforts over the years.

The conference itself was well-designed in terms of the schedule offering morning and lunch keynotes, and workshops, keeping people busy with many options throughout the day.

The highlight for me was the opportunity to reconnect with many of the people who have participated at one or more of the ten National Conferences that I organized between 1986 and 2005. Others have participated with me on the variety of projects that I have directed, including being Advisory Board members for the two films I produced with funding from OVC which were featured at the conference. Again, another hurrah for Joye who approved funding for these two training DVDs.

The first video is about the forensic interviewing skills needed when the crime victim has a cognitive and/or communication disability (VICTIMS WITH DISABILITIES: THE FORENSIC INTERVIEW). The second focuses on how to conduct the first response to such crimes, entitled, VICTIMS WITH DISABILITIES: MULTIDISCIPLINARY, COLLABORATIVE FIRST RESPONSE. These videos are free for the asking from OVC, and come with a guidebook for training others.

Even having only small amounts of time for a quick hug and brief interchange with my colleagues, for me this re-connection opportunity really is the best part of the conference. Next is meeting new people who are excited and engaged in similar work in their communities.

Simultaneous to the workshop presentations, a film-screening program was held where the two films mentioned above were shown several times, as well as other videos on related topics.

During the initial plenary session, Joye spoke of the commitment of the Department of Justice to address the needs of crime victims with disabilities. She mentioned an essential project being funded at $1.5 million to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for a three-year grant to create a data collection system focused exclusively on this population. That is great, and we will be watching for the results.

The speaker for the opening conference was Ollie Cantos, J.D., known and respected by many for his advocacy and passion to help crime victims with disabilities. He works at the U.S. Department of Justice, and over the years in different roles there, has consistently maintained a commitment to crime victims with disabilities while doing other work related to the ADA and employment of youth with disabilities. He gave an inspiring speech, a great way to open the conference!

As to the content and quality of the conference, many of the presenters are individuals who have made presentations at conferences of related topics, the Denver conference, or the National Conference s which were co-sponsored by the Arc of Riverside County. They do their work daily in their own communities and speak from personal experience. The conference offered presentations on foundational information for people new to the issues as well as advanced workshops focusing on skill building for those already familiar with the basics. There were seven categories which made workshop selection easier for those following “tracks” to feed their interests in particular areas.

On the last day of the conference, it was announced that there were no plans for funding of future conferences on this topic. Although this may change, at present no plans are in the works. Yet I am sure that due to the two conferences OVC funded, the increased awareness of the problems and enhanced the skills of responders and others who attended this and prior conferences will remain.

The final keynote address was given by Sharon D’Eusanio. She described how her life changed when she became a victim of crime, how becoming blind in that moment was “the least” of her worries, but most of her concerns focused on being able to get back to her life as the parent of three young children, and how she would manage life as a single parent. Her boys are now grown, and her wonderful husband of many years, Ray, is also her support person as they travel together to conferences and other meetings, to help guide victim responders in paying attention to the needs not only of the new disability but in particular having been a victim of a crime.

I believe the best presentation at the conference was that of Mary Lynn and Tammy Rattey. The planning committee had asked if I could contact the Rattey family to make this presentation. I had asked them to make a presentation in 2004 in Boston where I had created a one-day conference on abuse in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities, in tandem with the annual conference of The Arc of the United States. Nancy Alterio and Jenny Edwards of the Boston-based Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission worked with me to create an amazing one-day affair that was videotaped. In addition to the Rattey family, they had invited local prosecutors, primarily Elizabeth Scheibel who was the brains and motivation behind the development of DPCC. The Rattey family presentation was the hit of the Boston conference, and we hoped the same for the Orlando Conference. And, I believe it was.

As Mary, Tammy’s mother, told the story of Tammy’s victimization, and not only what happened to Tammy but how the entire family was affected in every way by this crime. Mary was amazing, providing details of the family’s travails in the criminal and civil courts, in healing, in learning more about abuse of individuals with disabilities than they had ever imagined, and in making a lifelong commitment to helping others who find themselves faced with this tragedy.

Tammy completed the presentation by making her own statement about the rape, which occurred just about 13 years ago. Amazingly, she said, “I am happy now. I have a boyfriend. I want to help other people know that they can heal. It has been a lot of work. This tore my life apart. But by telling my story, I hope I can help other people know that if they are raped, they can get help and put their lives back together. I did and so can you.” This is really not a direct quote, but gives the gist of her speech.

She and her mother, Mary, got an immediate and long standing ovation. Tammy took her bows. Many people came up to them, wanting to say how much they were touched by their bravery in the midst of the tragedy as well as in coming to this conference to share their story. Several people came up to Tammy to tell her that they also had been raped, and were helped by Tammy’s speech. There wasn’t, I don’t think, a dry eye in the place.

It is for families like the Ratteys that I do this work. And, I hope, that there will be more conferences, meetings, gatherings, both in person and online, in which inspiration such as that of the Ratteys can be shared, hope be instilled, and healing occur. I am grateful to the conference organizers who asked me to help them bring the Ratteys to Orlando and help host their presentation by introducing them at the Keynote. There is much to learn, much to do to incorporate what has been learned at personal, community and agency levels.

I am hoping that many who attended the conference will continue their interest in learning more and in creating and maintaining connections from the conference, by joining the listserv of the Disability and Abuse Project. It is the best way to get quick help, support, ideas, and a sense of having someone available who understands your needs. We will be contacting those who attended the conference to invite them to keep up on the information they learned at Orlando conference, 24/7, 365 days a year and the connections they made with others attending the conference. We are here to support ongoing collaboration, communication and support.

So, I’ll end this with my appreciation again to OVC for funding the conference, NCVC for producing such a successful event, those who attended for their participation, and in particular, Mary Lynn and Tammy Rattey for their courage in providing information that I am sure will help reduce the risk of abuse for some, and enhance healing for others.

Dr. Nora Baladerian

How Our Listserv Helps Professionals

The Disability and Abuse Project’s Listserv is similar to a community bulletin board. Our members receive every message posted on the Listserv, and can either read and respond, or just read and learn. In fact, most of our members are what are called “lurkers” in geek-talk: people who watch what is going on but do not actively participate. Others are actively engaged and post frequently. These are folks who are more likely to be those whose occupations bring them face to face interactions with crime victims with disabilities on occasion, while many who post more frequently have more day-to-day interactions.

The members of the Listserv include a variety of professionals: police/sheriff officers who act as patrol, detectives, investigators, trainers; prosecutors who investigate and try cases; victim advocates; rape treatment center personnel; child advocacy professionals including forensic interviewers, case managers, social workers, executive staff and medical staff; SANEs (sexual assault nurse examiners); teachers; psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed social workers; disability specialists such as those who work with specific populations including deaf, hard of hearing, blind and vision impaired, those who have autism or are on the autism spectrum; those with intellectual and developmental disabilities; individuals concerned with mental illness, physical disability, recently acquired disabilities; defense attorneys, civil litigation attorneys, public service attorneys, special education attorneys. I’m sure there are many more categories, but this gives you an idea of the breadth of our members.

In support of our mission, the Listserv is a place to exchange information, share ideas and comment on current news events. These are important aspects for any professional. Yet, the heart of the Listserv is the capability to jump into action when needed. I’ll share with you a few recent examples where our members made a real difference in the lives of families in need.

Last month I received a rather long email from a woman in New York. She believed her daughter had been a victim of sexual assault. Her detailed account of the events told it all: her adult daughter’s disheveled appearance with clothing in disarray upon return from her day program, bleeding in the groin area, and complaining of physical pain, fearful, angry and distraught. The mother took her daughter to an emergency room where staff had refused to perform a SANE exam. The police did take a report, but the attitude was one of lack of interest and the mother felt that the officer brushed them off. Her own doctor refused to conduct a pelvic exam. Her daughter was in physical pain and both were in emotional distress, so she reached out for help.

The email was so detailed, any reader could see why help was needed. I asked if she would be willing to allow me to share her email with hundreds of professionals on our Listserv to see who could help her. She readily agreed.

Within 10 minutes, members reached out to her by direct email. Folks from all over the country offered direct phone numbers for her to call for legal, medical and psychological help. They compassionately provided information giving psychological support to this family while attending to the obvious medical needs.

After just one week the mother wrote to me expressing her profound gratitude, stating that she was no longer feeling so alone and helpless. My thanks go out to Shirley Pacely, Paul Feuerstein and Luz Marquez. Since folks responded to her directly, I do not know all who jumped in to help.

A second example is that of a police officer in Mississippi asking if I knew any qualified child forensic interviewers “in my area” to help with a case of a non-verbal little girl with significant developmental disabilities. I placed the request on our Listserv. Within 30 minutes, I had an email from Lori Brown who works in Georgia. Call it the “Law of Attraction,” Lori said that in about two weeks she had plans to be very close to the caller. I put the two together. Lori not only conducted the forensic interview quite successfully, but identified that this child’s abilities far exceeded her current school placement. Arrangements were made to get her into an appropriate educational track. Yeah, Lori!

Finally, we have had several requests by our members for assistance in preparation for a presentation they were planning. Our members are always quick to offer direct assistance as well as links or sending materials by direct email to the requester. New materials of interest to us all are often announced, such as Wendie Abramson’s new adapted Power and Control Wheel for individuals with disabilities.

The Listserv is like a community gathering spot, or a coffee shop online, for social and business together…a virtual Starbucks store.

I’ll end with a note of gratitude to our members, who give of themselves selflessly and generously. All of this is without pay and often without public appreciation or recognition. They do it because it needs to be done and they CAN DO it!

We are changing and updating the appearance and outreach of the disability and Abuse Project. I believe that these changes will increase our reach and visibility, and strengthen our ability to be of service to each other and the individuals and families who need our collective wisdom, knowledge and compassion.

To ask to have your name and email address added to our Listserv, please email us at:

Disability and Abuse Project is Launched

The Disability and Abuse Project has a new face, with new leadership and support, building upon many years of work and accomplishments by a variety of colleagues who have lent their expertise to this cause.

The project focuses on individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. This includes all aspects of crime, such as crime victimization, reducing the risk of becoming a victim, support to the individual and family members when crime does occur, as well as providing guidance for psychotherapy and legal support.

The project works with those who respond to crime reports, including police and sheriff personnel at all levels (patrol, investigators, detectives, dispatchers), prosecutors, protective services professionals, SANEs, victims advocates, and any others. It provides technical assistance, training programs, and training curricula. The project offers educational programs and consultation to schools, adult day programs and other groups to enhance awareness of the problems and encourage risk reduction programs as well as information on mandated reporting.

The project also provides support to defense attorneys to make sure that defendants with developmental disabilities receive a fair trial and that they are sentenced appropriately to their culpability. Finally, the project maintains national and international support through its listserv and the new feature of a weekly newsfeed, with all articles from the past week on the topic, keeping subscribers to the listserv up-to-date. Through the listserv, participants can reach out to each other for resources, answers to questions, hot discussions, and maintain a sense of community.

The project is a function of Spectrum Institute, a nonprofit organization promoting respect for human diversity. Over the years, Spectrum Institute has sponsored projects dealing with personal privacy, family diversity, and freedom from violence, as well as promoting the elimination of discrimination on the basis of marital status and sexual orientation. It helped launch the Disability, Abuse, and Personal Rights Project many years ago. I am grateful to the Board of Directors for affirming the organization’s support for this new and improved Disability and Abuse Project.

Jim Stream, the Executive Director of the Arc of Riverside County, is the inspiration for our new look and now our participation in the social media world where we can both disseminate and receive information with a much wider audience, and serve many more people. His internet advisor, Michelle Baldwin, provides this project with her tech savvy guidance. We are grateful to Jim and Michelle for their enthusiastic support.

Anne Kincaid is the newest addition to our team. She is responsible for gathering news items during the week and putting them into a readable newsfeed. This allows our members to quickly stay up to date in their state or their particular subject matter area of interest. The weekly newsfeed is sent out to our members, beginning with my “picks” (those items I feel are of particular interest), then the rest of the articles are available using a link to our wesite, where readers can easily access articles as their time permits. In fact, each week’s newsfeed is archived, so anyone can go back and find articles of interest, all of which are listed in alphabetical order by state.

My new blog, of which this is the first installment, will be available right here. Our listserv members will be alerted to new blog postings. I will be inviting guest bloggers to write for us on topics about which we need their expertise. Since this is a blog, readers will be able to post comments or ask questions, so this will be a collaborative forum.

I will also be inviting some of my colleagues to become advisors to the Disability and Abuse Project. These will be individuals with expertise relevant to helping victims with disabilities.

Finally, none of this would be happening without the work of Tom Coleman, who has become the “Administrator” of this project, although he is much much more! He is my “angel” or he says, “manager”, and keeps me on my toes, nudging me to actually do the things I say I want to do. He helps with time management, project management, and in particular, generating new ideas for getting this going.

I am SO EXCITED to have our new website, our newsfeed, this blog, and other ways to connect and share that are just around the corner. Please do let me know if you want to join with us as we move forward with this important work. I am sure we can find a place for you to participate with the Disability and Abuse Project team.

Welcome to Dr. Nora’s blog

Welcome to the blog of Dr. Nora Baladerian. 

Dr. Nora will be posting commentaries to this blog as issues arise in the media or as specific cases or projects come to her attention. 

She will also be inviting some of her colleagues to write guest commentaries on issues that inspire them to do so.

We hope that you enjoy this website and the blogs that are published here from time to time.

Thomas F. Coleman
Website administrator