A Community-based PAR Approach to Understanding Violence Against People with Developmental Disabilities (MT UCEDD)

August 13, 2013

Dr. Rosemary Hughes of The Rural Institute at UM
Dr. Rosemary Hughes of The Rural Institute at UM

"People tend to think people with disabilities are immune to violence." - Research participant who has a disability

Research shows that people with developmental disabilities are among those most likely to experience interpersonal violence. Dr. Rosemary Hughes of The Rural Institute at UM, and her colleagues at Portland State University and the Oregon Health & Sciences University used a community-based participatory research approach to fully include people with developmental disabilities as equal research partners. This project is the most innovative investigation of its kind. Individuals with developmental disabilities helped to design the research, gather the survey data and most importantly, interpret the results. Discussion of interpersonal violence, including sexual, physical, and disability-related abuse, is a highly sensitive topic. Dr. Hughes and her team enabled research participants to adapt the process so that they could accurately and safely answer survey questions. One participant remarked, "The fact that I was asked my opinion speaks volumes."  

Preliminary results from the survey of 350 people with developmental disabilities found that 60% were victims of violence as children and a full two-thirds have been victimized as adults. These startling results have powerful implications for future research. Among them, this project identified and implemented innovative methods that could be used by clinicians and other researchers as they learn more about interpersonal violence in the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Most importantly, it added greater emphasis on the need to eliminate interpersonal violence in the lives of people who are often left out of violence prevention discussions.