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Feeling safe is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life. It’ gives people a chance to enjoy their lives without the fear that they could be harmed physically, psychologically, or financially. Being safe at home or in public takes some preventative measures, precautionary planning and building confidence.
Safety measures help people feel less vulnerable
What situations are considered unsafe?
It’s possible that a person may be unsafe in a variety of situations. In most cases, a person may be unsafe if he or she is in public, or otherwise outside of his or her home. Unfortunately, it is a fact that some people with disabilities are unsafe, however, in their own home.
Situations that are unsafe include those where there is a compromised quality of life. If a person lives in a place where they are physically or emotionally harmed by someone else, be it a private home or a group situation, the safety implications are obvious.
Places where a person could meet with harm, or become a victim of crime, include:
- Public places
- Outdoor spaces
- Group homes or institutions
- Medical settings
The types of harm that could compromise a person’s safety in any of these settings include:
- Physical harm, assault
- Domestic assault at the hands of a caregiver
- Robbery or theft of personal property
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse, fraud
People that might create situations that are unsafe and unhealthy include:
- Family members
- Spouses, partners
- Caregivers and PCAs
- Medical professionals
- Friends and associates
- Teachers or educators
- Anyone who has contact with a person that has special needs
What measures can a person take to secure their own safety?
When a person is forced to defend their safety, it’s likely to turn confrontational. Sometimes, it’s a matter of telling a person to their face that they’re acting badly or illegally, or reporting them to a supervisor if a person’s safety is being compromised in a professional or personal setting.
If a person finds themselves in a situation where they are being abused or attacked by someone they do not know, or in a public place, it’s also confrontational, but a different set of skills will be needed to bring an end to the situation.
No matter how a safety issues begins, and how it plays out, there are always strategies people can use to protect themselves. However, not all of these methods are effective in every situation.
Some of the non-verbal ways people can maximize their own safety include:
- Always be aware of immediate surroundings – if something seems suspicious, it likely is
- Make sure to know the area where you live
- Keep all emergency numbers, as well as family contacts, encoded in a cell phone. Always carry it
- Make sure that information regarding a person’s physical condition and medications is on their person
- Designate a trusted individual to make decisions if a person becomes incapacitated
- Walk with, and interact with others, with confidence – it will make a person less likely to be a victim. Always make eye contact
- Do not share too much information about oneself online – it’s not known what the goals of the other person are
- Do not disclose financial information to people that are not friends or family
- Conduct background checks on all PCAs and aides; ask for references and check government sites for information on residential and medical facilities
- Have a home or apartment assessed for vulnerabilities, such as faulty locks. This service is often provided free of charge by area police departments and law enforcement agencies
- Understand the strengths, and limits of a disability, and how they affect a person’s ability to mount a defense against a perpetrator
- Reach out to a disabilities advocacy center that can provide information, tools and support
- Be assertive – never concede power in relationships. Be sure to set boundaries
Sometimes, a situation presents an imminent danger to a person. These circumstances are most likely to bring physical harm to someone. In some cases, a person may know the individual that is causing problems (relatives, home care workers, professionals). In others, a person may be a victim of random crime.
Although all of the aforementioned strategies are important when the dangerous situations occur, it’s doubly important to use physical and defensive strategies as well. These include:
- Make a tape recorded message that can be played to ask for assistance in an event a person cannot speak
- Use whatever physical ability a person has to defend themselves, even if it’s just wheeling to a place where other people are. This increases the likelihood that a person will be noticed
- Don’t be afraid to yell, or make noise, to attract attention
In cases of an emergency, it’s important to have a plan. This of course can be difficult to do if a person is in unfamiliar surroundings. To the best extent possible, a person should make a mental note of exits and entrances to all facilities.
Being safe is most often about being able to skills to thwart a situation. When those skills cannot be developed, it’s imperative to find viable compensatory measures.
It goes without saying that a person who is being robbed should just give up his or her wallet or possessions. Nothing is worth losing a life. And remember that no emergency situation is over until a person has received assistance.
How can others help a person maintain a high level of safety?
The best way that other people can help a loved one with disabilities during a crisis is to let them know that they’ll provide support should such a situation come to pass. People with disabilities often feel vulnerable – even guilty – if they are a victim of an unscrupulous person. As a trusted friend or family member, an individual can assure a person that they can be depended on to help a person if a negative situation takes place. Specifically, a person that is part of a plan would be willing to secure supplies, provide transportation, be on a call list, or provide emotional support.
What can a person do if they have been harmed as a result of an unsafe situation?
The most obvious way to obtain help in a dangerous situation is to call 911. First responders are a first-line of defense in such a situation; they also take reports and follow up on the case, which may result in the return of property, or an arrest.
But there are other agencies and non-profits that can provide valuable tips on how to remain safe, and how to cope with the aftermath of a dangerous situation. These agencies specifically offer assistance within the disabilities community.
The US Department of Justice offers assistance to people with disabilities; they investigate crimes against the disabled and attempt to resolve disputes regarding people with disabilities and other individual or agencies when an infraction has occurred.
Additionally, the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights investigates where it is believed that a person’s civil rights have been violated. In those cases, it’s possible that a person responsible for crimes against the elderly can be prosecuted I federal court. In cases of child abuse, state or federal human services agencies will investigate, and turn information over to the proper state or federal authorities if it is determined that a violation took place.
Are there any special provisions in the law to individuals with special needs that have been victimized?
Some state legislatures have passed what are known as vulnerable adult laws. These provisions allow for mandatory sentencing enhancements for those convicted of a crime against a person that is deemed to be vulnerable – the disabled, elderly, or children.
These laws aim to deter crimes against people who have few resources to fight back; they are an attempt by law enforcers to protect people from being victims of crime.
Government assistance – also known as public assistance – is aid, service or supports that are provided to an individual by a government agency based on established criteria – income, disability, dependency or need, for example. Government resources come in the form of cash, food, services, shelter, technology, supports, and more.
- Cash Assistance: SSI, SSDI and TANF
- Child Care Assistance
- Education Assistance
- Employment Assistance
- Energy Assistance: LIHEAP, WAP and Others
- Health Care: Medicare
- Health Insurance: CHIP, Medicaid, and more
- Housing and Rental Assistance
- Nutrition Assistance: SNAP, WIC and more
- Safety and Protection