Ends on August 23, 2019

Welcome to the application for the Increasing Survivors with Disabilities Access to Healing Services and Justice Options Learning Community application. We are thrilled that you are interested in improving access to healing services for survivors of sexual violence with disabilities in your community. 

With support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), the Vera Institute of Justice's Center on Victimization and Safety (Vera), a national non-profit organization working to end abuse of people with disabilities, is soliciting application letters from local communities to participate in a pilot project to improve access to healing services and justice options for survivors of sexual violence who have disabilities. 

Vera will work with the selected applicants to bring together key stakeholders in their community, which must include a local rape crisis center and disability service provider, with the goal of improving responses to survivors of sexual assault with disabilities; identifying gaps and barriers to healing services and justice options for survivors with disabilities; and creating better pathways to healing for these survivors. 

We will select two communities to participate in this pilot project. To apply, perspective communities must submit a brief application letter and at least two (2) letters of support. 

Over a 9-month period, we will provide tailored support and training in the form on consultations, in person meetings, and virtual convenings to the selected communities to support their efforts to identify needs and close service gaps for survivors with disabilities. We will also work with local partners to devise a funding strategy to sustain the work and vision of their learning community once the 9-month project period ends. 

Below you will find information about submitting your application materials. 

The Request for Application Letters for this project is available in English. We can offer the Request for Application Letters in a different format (such as large print) or another language, upon request. 

For questions about this Request for Application Letters, including requests for materials in an alternative format or language, please contact Ashley Brompton at abrompton@vera.org or 646-992-1131. We look forward to reviewing your application!


People with disabilities experience domestic and sexual violence at alarming rates, with research finding that they experience victimization at rates much higher than people without disabilities. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey, people with disabilities experience violent victimization at rates 3 times higher than those without disabilities. Moreover, people with certain disabilities - such as multiple disabilities and cognitive disabilities - are at an even higher risk for victimization. 

Research also suggests that people with disabilities and Deaf people - women and men - are more likely than those without disabilities to experience certain types of violent crimes, especially sexual assault. In a recent prevalence study based on data from the Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 21.1% of men and 21% of women in the sample reported a disability. Both men and women with disabilities reported markedly higher levels of lifetime and past-year sexual assault - from 2 to 4 times higher than individuals without disabilities. 

Research has found similar rates for Deaf individuals. For example, in a 2014 survey of Deaf adults, Deaf survey respondents indicated that they experienced forced sexual incidents at rates at least twice as high as those reported by hearing respondents to similar surveys. 

The prevalence of sexual assault among people with cognitive disabilities is even higher, with one study finding that 83% of adult females and 32% of adult males with cognitive disabilities are victims of sexual assault. 

Despite high rates of victimization, people with disabilities and Deaf people are less likely to receive victim services. In 2013, for example, only 12% of violent crime victims (age 12 and older) with disabilities received assistance from non-police victim services agencies. Similarly, these crimes are less likely to be reported to law enforcement and, when they are, they are less likely to lead to an investigation, arrest, prosecution, or conviction than crimes involving people without disabilities. 

There are a number of gaps and barriers to services and support for people with disabilities and Deaf people, including a lack of awareness and knowledge among service providers; lack of specialized capacity and resources to serve survivors with disabilities; and limited to no partnerships among victim services, disability organizations, and criminal justice systems. 


The applicant organization can be a rape crisis center, a disability services organization, a law enforcement agency, or a government entity such as a coordinated community response team, a task force, a mayoral office, or other intermediary that brings together service providers. 

Applicants should be able to describe the need for improved access to healing services and justice options for survivors with disabilities in their community and have a demonstrated track record of successfully working with other organizations to improve services in their local jurisdiction (neighborhood, city, or county). Applicants must be able to demonstrate the ability to bring other organizations in their jurisdiction into this project by providing letters of support. 

Organizations that are currently receiving federal funds through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women's Training and Enhanced Services to End Violence Against Women with Disabilities Grant Program are not eligible to apply for this project.

How to Apply
To apply for technical assistance, one or more entities must submit an application letter and at least (2) letters of support.

Application Letter  
The application letter should be no more than 5 pages in double-spaced, 12-point font, and should provide the following information: 

  1. Explain why your organization(s) is interested in enhancing services for survivors with disabilities, and why this is the type of effort needed in your community; 
  2. Describe your vision for this task force in your community, including the organizations that could potentially serve on the task force and what you hope the task force could accomplish by the end of the 9-month project;
  3. Describe the applicant organization(s), including mission, programming, staffing, and any experiences serving survivors with disabilities; 
  4. Explain why your organization(s) is well-suited to collaborate on this project. If possible, include examples of past collaborative effort and a successful initiative that enhanced services for a specific community of people; 
  5. Describe what your organization(s) hopes to gain from the technical assistance offered through this pilot project, as well as what you hope is gained in your community. How will this technical assistance support your organization(s) to advance your goals for survivors with disabilities?; 
  6. Express a commitment to provide the necessary resources, including staff time, to meet the expectations and responsibilities outlined above.

Letters of Support
Applicants are required to submit at least two (2) letters of support from other organizations that are interested in collaborating on the project. Letters of support should be on the organization's official letterhead and no longer than 2 pages double-spaced.
Each letter of support should explain: 

  1. Why the organization is interested in enhancing services for survivors with disabilities;
  2. Why the organization is interested in participating in the project;
  3. The expertise the organization will bring to the project; 
  4. Express a commitment to participate in project activities outlined above. 

Applications are due by 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time on August 23, 2019

We prefer application materials (application letters and letters of support) to be submitted using Submittable, this online management platform. 

Submittable allows you to upload and attach files in Word, plain text, and PDF formats. At any point during your application process, you can save your work along the way and can log in and out of the system. Once logged out, you will be asked to enter your email and password to return to your application. 

To complete your application, you will need to submit the following components:
• Contact information
• Application letter
• Letters of support (at least 2) 

 If you prefer to submit your application materials, including your contact information, via mail, please send to: 

Improving Access for Survivors with Disabilities

Center on Victimization and Safety,  Vera Institute of Justice

233 Broadway, 12th Floor

New York, NY 10279

Timeline for Application and Site Selection

Vera staff will review application letters and accompanying letters of support. We will evaluate submissions based upon the degree to which the application letter and letters of support address each component outlined in this description. After reviewing submissions, Vera staff may conduct phone interviews with candidates prior to selecting the pilot sites. We hope to make selections by the end of September 2019. 

Overview of Technical Assistance and Site Responsibilities

Technical Assistance from Vera

The sites selected for this initiative will receive no-cost technical assistance from Vera staff and consultants, but will not receive any grant funds. The assistance will include, but is not limited to, phone, video, and in-person consultation, training, and referrals to other resources and change makers designed to enhance learning community members' knowledge, skills, and connections essential to leading change initiatives at the intersections of disability and violence.

The Vera team will work with the site to develop a collaborative learning, planning, and change process with local agencies. While the overarching goal is to increase access to healing services and justice options for survivors with disabilities, the specific goals of the task force will depend on the community's interests, participating network of service providers, needs, and strengths. While this process will be tailored to the locality, Vera anticipates supporting each site in the following ways: 

  1. Identifying learning community members;
  2. Assessing local strengths and gaps in service delivery and developing strategies for closing those gaps; 
  3. Providing support to the learning community; 
  4. Developing sustainable action plans, funding strategies, and resources; and 
  5. Making connections and fostering learning between the sites selected through this project. 

Vera may also develop a publicly available blog posts, fact sheets, webinars, and other resources for the field related to the process, outcomes, and lessons learned from the initiative. 

Expectations and Responsibilities of the Collaborating Partners on Site

  1. Co-develop and sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Vera that outlines responsibilities and benchmarks for the 9-month initiative; 
  2. Identify one or more local coordinators to serve as main points of contact for Vera staff;
  3. Participate in twice-monthly planning calls with Vera staff; 
  4. Work with Vera staff to establish a local learning community and plan agendas and schedules for learning community meetings; 
  5. Identify and secure local and accessible meeting spaces; 
  6. Commit to attend local in-person meetings, as well as virtual meetings, with Vera and the local learning community throughout the duration of the project;
  7. Assist with the development of learning community goals, responsive strategies, and implementation of new policies, procedures, trainings, and more; and
  8. Commit to promoting access, inclusion, and cultural relevance in all project activities. 

About the Vera Institute of Justice, Center on Victimization and Safety

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) works to improve the quality and delivery of justice to ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities. Through our Center on Victimization and Safety, we have a long-standing commitment to addressing the justice needs of people with disabilities and Deaf people. Since 2005, we have been working to end domestic and sexual violence in the lives of people with disabilities and Deaf people. 

Through this work, we seem to: (1) promote a framework for understanding, responding to, and ending domestic and sexual violence that accounts for the societal, community, and individual factors surrounding disability and Deaf culture in the United States; (2) build and strengthen a diverse, inclusive, and coordinated movement of people, organizations, and communities working to end abuse of people with disabilities; (3) enhance the individual and collective capacity of family and community members, providers, first responders, and policymakers to prevent violence against people with disabilities and to respond effectively to survivors and the people responsible for this abuse when it does occur; and (4) increase the availability and use of research and evaluation in our efforts to end abuse of people with disabilities. We work to achieve these goals through a variety of training and technical assistance, research, and demonstration projects.