Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) are the most likely victims of sexual assault. To be effective advocates, attorneys must be properly trained to interview and depose this survivor population.
Even before a sexual assault becomes a “case”, many reporting hurdles face these survivors:
- Even if these survivors are capable of making a report, their credibility may be questioned simply because of their disability.
- If the survivor is living exclusively with a community caregiver who may also be the perpetrator, there may be limited opportunities to make a report. Indeed, survivors may be putting themselves at risk by even attempting to report.
- The person taking the report may not have the necessary skills to conduct the interview correctly.
Interviewing and deposing are both art and science. There is no ironclad rulebook on how to properly relate with, interview, and depose a client with intellectual disabilities. Attorneys are encouraged to seek out resources and educate themselves prior to conducting interviews and depositions of an intellectually disabled client.
Daniel Pollack, MSW, JD, is a Professor at Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work in New York.
Helene M. Weiss is an associate attorney at the Marsh Law Firm in New York, and Special Professor of Law, Maurice A. Deane School of Law, Hofstra University.
They may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.