ARC

The Arc of Bristol County building on Park Street in Attleboro. (Staff photo by Mike George)

ATTLEBORO — Two local social service organizations will share a $500,000 Justice Department grant to combat violence and sexual assault against people with developmental disabilities — a major new initiative in this area, representatives of New Hope and The Arc of Bristol County announced Wednesday.

The three-year grant by the the U.S. Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women will be used jointly to provide advocacy and intervention for victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault or stalking in the Attleboro-Taunton area.

“We’re excited to partner with New Hope on a subject of such importance to people with disabilities,” said Michael Andrade, president of The Arc of Bristol County.

Marcia Szymanski, president and CEO of New Hope, said the project would unite the agencies in a common cause.

“This combines two areas of expertise in a way that will help us develop a systemic approach,” she said.

The Arc of Bristol County has long advocated for and worked with people with developmental disabilities and their families. New Hope’s efforts are focused on preventing domestic and sexual violence and assisting survivors of abuse.

At a time when violent crimes and assaults are on the rise, leaders of both agencies said, the disabled are particularly vulnerable.

Szymanski cited statistics showing that 90 percent of disabled people will be victimized at least once during their lifetimes.

Agency officials said the grant would be used to assemble a team of community leaders to identify problems and to provide intervention when necessary to curb abuse. They also plan to encourage education and awareness around the subject of violence against the disabled.

Another focus will be working directly with the disabled, who may be victimized because they feel vulnerable, fear retaliation or are unprepared to respond to violence.

The first year of the grant will be devoted to planning, while the second and third will focus on implementing strategies to prevent abuse.

The grant will enable the agencies to hire the equivalent of two full-time staff members, as well as potentially purchase adaptive equipment and other needs, officials said.

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