People with disabilities have always had a voice. We’re just teaching the world different ways to listen.
A disability victim services agency

Deaf woman with short hair signing

Finding Success with Project FIND

July 9, 2020

In the last year, 76 professionals from around the state have completed our Advanced Forensic Interviewing Individuals with Disabilities (Project FIND) certificate training both in person and online, as COVID-19 has required a shift in approach. One of our trainees, a county board of developmental disabilities investigation agent, recently sent us a story about how she successfully used the skills she’d learned in our training. Read about her experience in her own words:

A young light-skinned woman with a hearing aid sits with her back to the camera and motions with a thumbs up to a white woman facing her, who is making the same movement

Recently I collaborated with law enforcement when a provider staff member had seriously physically injured an individual who was served by the county board. Law enforcement was the lead investigator for this case, as it was a criminal investigation. Initially, the detective was reluctant to interview the victim because she was intellectually disabled, deaf and did not speak. I assured him that the victim would be able to give him the information he needed if we had an interpreter and some paper, because she was able to write. After discussing the victim’s abilities, he was very willing to interview her with an ASL interpreter and some paper and a pen. I set up a meeting for them in a comfortable space that followed COVID-19 safety restrictions.

Because the victim had the accommodations she needed, the detective was able to obtain the information he needed to further his investigation and submit the case for prosecution. Both the detective and the victim were smiling at the end of the interview. The mutual respect they had developed for each other was obvious.

The Project FIND training is invaluable for all professionals in all aspects of abuse investigations. We must FIND a way to communicate with victims, no matter who they are and what their abilities are. We must open our minds to the possibilities and take the time that victims/survivors deserve to tell their account of what has happened to them. We have to value all members of a team and the information and resources they bring to the investigation. This cannot be optional any longer. It HAS to become an integral part of the everyday process of investigation for justice to be served to all who have been victimized.