It’s a frightening statistic, but one that needs to be recognized: People with disabilities are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted than individuals without disabilities.
NPR recently launched an investigative series looking at the “hidden epidemic” of sexual assault facing people with disabilities. The series, which concluded Jan. 18, included several interviews with staff and people served by chapters of The Arc across the country.
Although the stories are difficult to listen to, ADEC applauds NPR for publishing the series and starting an important conversation.
Unfortunately, the people we serve at ADEC aren’t immune to the epidemic. Rosemary Poe is one of the individuals we serve that has shared her story to give hope to others.
Rosemary was abused — emotionally, physically and sexually — by her father since she was a child. Eventually, police intervened and put Rosemary in touch with employees at ADEC, who petitioned to be her legal guardian. ADEC staff have protected Rosemary and advocate don her behalf for more than 30 years now.
Rosemary was one of the first individuals to be served by ADEC’s corporate guardianship program, which serves more than 60 individuals by helping them with personal decisions, advocating for them and protecting them.
While we, as a nation, have a long way to go in preventing abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ADEC’s guardianship program will be there to protect individuals when they face those situations.
“I love that I can help give the people we serve a voice,” said Tobi Weirich, who serves as ADEC’s protective services and guardianship manager.
Tobi investigates all reports of alleged abuse, neglect and exploitation while also leading ADEC’s two guardian advocates, Jodi Taylor and Colleen Kaper. Jodi and Colleen each advocate for about 30 individuals, attempting to visit each one at least once a week to ensure their needs are being met. They speak with the people they serve on the phone with such kindness and compassion that it often sounds like they are speaking to a family member.
“I feel like I actually get to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Jodi Taylor, one of ADEC’s two guardian advocates.
ADEC’s guardian advocates don’t make or force decisions for the people they serve. Rather, they give them all the information they need to make those decisions on their own. ADEC strives to make sure all people lead lives full of choice and possibility. By helping individuals make the best choices for their situation, ADEC provides more possibilities.
Many people who require guardianship services have been victims of neglect or abuse by a family member or acquaintance. Those who require guardianship services are also often endangered financially and are unable to secure safe housing, access to medical care or other basic needs of living.
Guardianship is one of the few programs operated by ADEC that does not receive state or federal funding. Additionally, about 15 percent of people served through guardianship do not use any other services offered by ADEC.
ADEC is appointed guardian by a judge and is then legally accountable to the court to see that each person has a safe and clean place to live, gets the medical services he or she needs, is provided with appropriate educational services and that financial assets are handled properly.
If you or someone you know is in need of ADEC guardianship services, contact Tobi at 574-848-2426 or firstname.lastname@example.org.