May 6, 2010
For Immediate Release Contact: Nicole Matthews, Executive Director
Minnesota Indian Womens Sexual Assault Coalition
Statewide collaboration addresses violence against women with disabilities
[Minnesota Indian Womens Sexual Assault Coalition]
St. Paul, MN —Four statewide organizations: the Minnesota Indian Womens Sexual Assault Coalition, the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women have joined forces to create Minnesota Accessing Paths to Safety (MAPS) to address the needs of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors with disabilities. MAPS will be led by the Minnesota Indian Womens Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC) to ensure that the needs of American Indian women with disabilities are incorporated into all project activities. MIWSACs Director, Nicole Matthews, said What we know is that American Indian and Alaska Native women experience domestic and sexual violence at rates higher than any other population in the country, but they are also not visible.
The three-year project is in its first phase of work to create a sustainable, long-term statewide commitment. MAPS is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Womens Disability Grant Program. Minnesota’s collaboration was one of only seven projects in the country and one of two statewide collaborations to receive new disability grant funding. According to Charity Hope from the Vera Institute of Justice, the national technical assistance provider for the DOJ disability grants, This group is the first in the nation to have a Tribal Coalition involved and we expect to learn a lot from Minnesota.
Violence against women with disabilities is significantly unreported. Women who contact a disability organization for help may reach an advocate who has not been trained to assist victims of violence or be referred to another agency. Similarly, a woman with disabilities who contacts a domestic violence or sexual assault program may receive advocacy from someone who does not understand her disability and may encounter physical, communication, or programmatic barriers. Funding from the Department of Justice will enable MAPS to link the leadership and experience of American Indian women with the expertise of battered women, sexual assault, and disability rights advocates.