While a number of promising, widely scattered curricular responses to violence against women with developmental disabilities have been developed, in researching such curricula the Research and Development Team did not find one that had embraced the self-advocacy movement in all aspects of the curriculum – development, training, and evaluation. In Maryland, self-advocacy projects and the Self-Determination Initiative support the belief that all people with developmental disabilities should live in their communities, where they also need to be safe. In 1997, The Arc of Southern Maryland formed a partnership with the Calvert County Abused Persons Program to train the Program’s staff how to better work with individuals with developmental disabilities and those involved in the training wanted to build on that success.
The Arc of Maryland had experienced phenomenal success with its Know Your Rights project, a training workshop developed and taught by people with developmental disabilities that educated others about their rights, and the Ask Me! Project, a quality assurance project in which people with developmental disabilities interview others with disabilities about their satisfaction with the services they receive through the state’s Developmental Disabilities Administration. Building upon the success of all these projects, The Arc of Maryland’s Gender Violence Research and Development Team began the process of developing a violence prevention curriculum that would be co-taught by women with and without disabilities.
The overall Personal SPACE program goals are that women completing the program:
- Are knowledgeable about their rights to privacy and to freedom from physical harm;
- Have a basic understanding of different types of violence;
- Are able to identify places or situations that might pose a threat to their safety;
- Are able to recognize common forms of sexual harassment;
- Show an understanding of what constitutes sexual assault or abuse;
- Are able to identify the common signs of an abuser and understand the cycle of domestic violence;
- Have a physical safety plan prepared, and;
- Have knowledge of local resources and people to whom they can turn to for assistance.
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