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Murrysville

Murrysville program to offer tips to combat abuse of the disabled

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, 3:33 p.m.
Resident Mike Marenkovich, center, laughs with Dorothy Gordon, Chief Development Officer for NHS Allegheny Valley School, and Terry McNelis, Vice-President of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Resident Mike Marenkovich, center, laughs with Dorothy Gordon, Chief Development Officer for NHS Allegheny Valley School, and Terry McNelis, Vice-President of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.

People coping with disabilities already have their share of challenges without adding abuse to the list.

But, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, individuals with disabilities are one of the groups in the United States most vulnerable to abuse. In 2012, 1.3 million crimes occurred against disabled citizens.

To try and address the issue, officials from the Blackburn Center and Autism Connection of Pennsylvania have partnered to present “Disability, Victimization and Responses to Abuse,” on Nov. 5 at Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church in Murrysville.

Renee Reitz, assistant advocacy program manager at the Blackburn Center, said she hopes it will be the first of many such presentations.

“Anybody with a disability is vulnerable, and especially someone with autism,” Reitz said. “A lot of people don’t understand it, they get scared or they don’t know how to act.”

Reitz said the program is aimed at offering solutions and advice for family members, caregivers and the public on where to find guidance and support when abuse occurs.

Speakers will include Luciana Randall, executive director for Autism Connection of Pennsylvania, and an outreach counselor from the Blackburn Center.

“Down the line, we’re hoping to get law enforcement into the presentation as well,” Reitz said. “They can relate what they see in the course of their work.”

One of the most important things to combat abuse, she said, is recognizing trauma in a disabled individual.

“That’s what we focus on,” she said. “How do you identify trauma, and respond to it, with someone who’s affected by autism?”

The program is at 7 p.m. at the church, 4600 Old William Penn Highway in Murrysville.

For more, see BlackburnCenter.org .

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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