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EVAWI HOME > Webinars > Webinar Details
Successfully Investigating Sexual Assault Against Victims with Disabilities Webinar
Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
12:00 AM PT/1:00 AM MT/2:00 AM CT/3:00 AM ET
Closed Captioning Services available for this webinar.


We recently announced the launch of our latest OnLine Training Institute (OLTI) module entitled, Successfully Investigating Sexual Assault Against Victims with Disabilities. We are now delighted to offer a free webinar on the same topic, with training material drawn from the new module.

Need for Training

Most training on sexual assault of people with disabilities typically focuses on issues such as the following:

  • Definitions, descriptions, and characteristics of various disabilities
  • Legal requirements (e.g., compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • Physical accessibility issues
  • Communication guidelines (e.g., language use, communication aids and services)
  • Etiquette, respect, and empowerment

These are critically important areas, and the primary message of such training is often to "see the person, not the disability." Police officers are taught to approach victims with disabilities and the investigation "like they would in any other case." The hope is that victims who have a disability will be treated with the same respect as other victims, and this is an important goal we all need to support.

However, when training for law enforcement focuses solely on respect, police officers are left wondering what they should actually do when they are assigned to investigate a crime against a person with a disability. How do they approach the victim, craft an investigative strategy, and gather and document the relevant evidence? How do they effectively communicate with victims, and ensure they are doing everything they can to protect victims' safety while still respecting their self-autonomy? How do they access and utilize the people, technologies, and resources that might be available to help?

This webinar is designed to answer some of these questions.

Who Will Benefit

This training material is primarily focused on a law enforcement perspective, providing information and guidance for first responders as well as investigators and even prosecutors. However, it is intended to be equally helpful for others whose work intersects with the criminal justice system, to ensure that people with disabilities who are victimized have equal access to information, programs, and services - and that they are treated with fairness, compassion, and respect. Everyone involved in the criminal justice and community response system plays a critical role in providing that access and fair treatment.

Course Overview

  • We will begin by offering a brief overview of the prevalence and impact of sexual assault committed against people with disabilities, as well as some basic information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Next, we will examine the general framework for crafting an investigative strategy, based on key factors such as whether the victim is capable of consenting to sexual activity and whether the suspect is in a caregiver role or other position of authority.
  • Various stages of the investigation will then be described, including the initial response and preliminary investigation, the detailed follow-up interview(s) with the victim, and other steps taken to identify additional evidence and witnesses.
  • For victims who have a severe cognitive disability, the key determination will be whether they have the capacity to legally consent to sexual acts. We will briefly describe the various legal tests and strategies used to answer this question.
  • The next section focuses exclusively on the sexual assault of victims who have cognitive disabilities, with particular emphasis on intellectual disabilities. This type of case is commonly reported to law enforcement, and there are fundamental implications for how the investigation and prosecution will proceed, particularly during the interview.
  • Throughout the webinar, we will recommend initiatives that can be undertaken with multidisciplinary collaboration, such as a Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team (SARRT).
  • We will also refer participants to additional resource materials and tools that can be used for training purposes and also to improve the application of these principles to daily practices.


This webinar is approximately 90 minutes long.



Shirley PaceleyShirley Paceley

Founder and Director, Blue Tower Training, Macon Resources, Inc.

Shirley Paceley is the Founder and Director of Blue Tower Training, which has resources in 48 states and 15 countries; she has spoken in over 30 states as well as in Iceland and Guam. Shirley has worked with people with disabilities for 40 years and has a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology. Shirley is on the Board of Directors of EVAWI and the Editorial Board of Sexual Assault Report. Shirley developed the WE CAN Stop Abuse Curriculum for people with developmental disabilities and authored My Body My Choice as well as book chapters and articles, music CDs, and DVDs.

Shirley serves on the Illinois Imagines Team that facilitates systems change to enhance the response to survivors of sexual assault who have disabilities. Shirley also serves on the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council Responding to Survivors with Disabilities Committee which developed model statewide protocols for law enforcement and prosecutors in responding to victims with disabilities. Shirley works extensively across the nation to stop violence against people with disabilities and to improve survivor access to the community and criminal justice response. Shirley also provides inspirational trainings and coaching. Shirley recently published the book, Living Joy-Fully.

Joanne ArchambaultJoanne Archambault

Executive Director, End Violence Against Women International
Retired Sergeant, San Diego Police Department

Joanne Archambault is the Founder and Executive Director of EVAWI, as well as the President and Training Director of Sexual Assault Training & Investigations (SATI), Inc. She serves as co-editor of the Sexual Assault Report and a member of CounterQuo, a national initiative that seeks to challenge and change media and legal responses to sexual violence. In April 2010, Joanne was honored by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for her decades of tireless work on behalf of sexual assault victims, a prestigious National Crime Victims' Service Award for Allied Professionals. On October 27, 2010, Joanne was invited to meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden for the first assembly on violence against women to ever be held at the White House.

Joanne began her career working for the San Diego Police Department for almost 23 years, in a wide range of assignments. She first worked as an officer in Patrol and then as a detective in Gangs, Child Abuse, and Crimes Against Persons. As a sergeant, she had assignments in the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Sex Crimes. During the last ten years of her service, Joanne supervised the Sex Crimes Unit, which had 13 detectives and was responsible for investigating approximately 1,000 felony sexual assaults within the City of San Diego each year. Over the course of her career, she has written numerous articles and developed a wide range of training and policy materials, as well as serving on national advisory boards.

Kimberly A. Lonsway, Ph.D.Kimberly A. Lonsway, Ph.D.

Director of Research, End Violence Against Women International

Kim Lonsway earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She then served for two years as a post-doctoral research fellow at the interdisciplinary American Bar Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. She has volunteered for over fifteen years as a victim advocate, and was awarded the first-ever Volunteer of the Decade Award in 2012 from the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention (SARP) Center in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Kim previously served as the Director of Research for the National Center for Women & Policing, taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at California Polytechnic State University, and assisted Penny Harrington & Associates as the Director of Research and Training. In 2003, she joined EVAWI, where she develops grant proposals, creates training content and resource materials, and provides training and technical assistance for multidisciplinary audiences of practitioners in the fields of law enforcement, victim advocacy, health care, prosecution, and related disciplines. Kim is the co-author of a book with Penny Harrington entitled: "Investigating Sexual Harassment in Law Enforcement and Nontraditional Fields for Women" (Prentice Hall). She has also written over 60 published articles, book chapters, training modules, technical reports, government reports, commissioned documents. Along with Joanne Archambault, she served for five years as Co-Editor of the bimonthly Sexual Assault Report, published by the Civic Research Institute.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K021 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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