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When Survivors are not Believed

Sometimes people may seek services repeatedly from a variety of service providers. This can lead to them being labeled “Frequent Fliers” or “problems,” turned away from services entirely, or prosecuted for “false reporting”. When this happens, the person becomes even more vulnerable to violence, especially if it gets out into the community that they will be turned away from help. This can also lead to other people with disabilities not seeking services, because they are afraid of being labeled.

  • If a person has been refused services, discuss what needs the person has. Discuss with the person exactly what services other systems can provide. See which services can be matched, and which can’t. Brainstorm with them on how to meet needs that aren’t met by systems that are available.
  • Talk through the limitations of each service. For example, sexual assault exams can’t show molestation in most cases. And legal systems can’t always get enough evidence to bring a person to trial or get a conviction.
  • Trying to get emotional and social needs met through the wrong service provider can cause problems. Talk with the person about how to get those needs met without trying to use systems that are not a good fit for their needs.
  • If the person is turned away because of their disability, it may be necessary to refer the person to legal assistance. You can assist people in making complaints to the Human Rights Commission, or refer them to the Vermont Center for Independent Living or Disability Rights Vermont. Rather than simply referring someone, this may be a time to use releases and provide co-advocacy.