Evaluation of IMPACT:Ability’s Abuse Prevention Program at Goodwill of Columbus


IMPACT:Ability is an organization that provides abuse prevention education and training, with a focus on serving individuals with intellectual disabilities.

In the fall of 2023, IMPACT:Ability implemented a 15-session abuse prevention program with clients and staff at Goodwill of Columbus, a nonprofit organization that supports adults with disabilities through employment training and other services.

A Goodwill client practices protecting herself from unwanted hugs and touching, both of which could be associated with early stages of sexual exploitation.

Program Overview

The program consisted of 1.5-hour sessions held twice each week, delivered in person by certified IMPACT staff. The primary goals of the program were to equip participants with the following skills:

  1. Practicing self-regulation techniques for managing heightened emotions
  2. Assessing physical and emotional safety in various situations
  3. Determining appropriate information to share with others
  4. Distinguishing between good and bad secrets
  5. Using assertive communication to set boundaries and keep themselves safe
  6. Knowing how to respond to physical and emotional boundary crossings
  7. Leaving uncomfortable situations safely
  8. Reporting disturbing incidents and seeking help

A total of 16 clients and 5 Goodwill staff members participated in the program, with varying attendance due to participants’ other commitments.

Staff members trained alongside their clients, which increased camaraderie and built a common understanding of empowerment self-defense skills.

Evaluation Methodology

To comprehensively evaluate the program’s effectiveness, a multi-method approach was adopted, including:

  • Video recordings
  • Participant interviews
  • Post-course surveys
  • Individual and group observations

Previous attempts at paper-and-pencil pre- and post-surveys were found to be unreliable due to the challenges faced by the participants in processing, analyzing, and thinking abstractly.

To compensate, we video-recorded students participating in roleplaying scenarios centered around everyday self-defense. These videos provide further evidence of skill attainment, with participants demonstrating their ability to:

  • Use assertive verbal communication to set boundaries, defend themselves, and attract attention
  • Use physical skills (e.g., body language signals) to set interpersonal boundaries and escape dangerous situations
  • Take appropriate follow-up action, such as reporting incidents and seeking help  

Additionally, 100% of the participants were able to identify at least one safe person they could go to for help at home and at work by the end of the program, compared to fewer than half at the beginning. That is a significant achievement!

Evaluation Areas

The evaluation focused on the following areas when designing the evaluation methodology:

  • Adaptive Behavior: Assessing daily living skills, communication abilities, and socialization skills.
  • Social-Emotional Assessment: Evaluating emotional and social functioning, identifying strengths and areas requiring support.
  • Behavioral Assessment: Observing and measuring behaviors, identifying patterns, and assessing their impact on daily life.
In this scenario, a Goodwill client practices protecting himself from both unwanted touch and overtly inappropriate innuendo.

Survey Data

Six participants completed the post-course survey, with results demonstrating increased knowledge and skills in various behavioral and social-emotional assessment areas. The survey results are summarized below:

100% of participants marked “Very confident” when answering these questions:

  • I am confident using my voice to ask for what I want.
  • I am confident I know what to do if someone says mean things to me.
  • I am confident I know what to do if someone tries to hurt my body.
  • I am confident I know at least two safe people: one at home and one at work.

80% or higher  marked that they were “somewhat confidant to very confident” in the  following:

  • I am confident I know how to calm my body when I am scared or angry.
  • I am confident I can set a boundary with someone I know.
  • I am confident I know what to do if someone touches my body, and I don’t want them to.
  • I am confident I can get to safety if I need to
  • I am confident I know how to get away if someone is trying to contain me.
  • I am confident I can get help if I need to.

More than 50% of the participants answered that they were  either “somewhat confident or very confident” about the following:  

  • I am confident I can use my voice to set a boundary
  • I am confident that I can recognize if someone is trying to hurt me.
  • I am confident I can set a boundary with someone I do not know.
  • I am confident I can set a boundary with someone I know. 
  • I am confident I know what to do if someone I am not dating touches me in sexual ways.
  • I am confident I know what to do if someone bribes or threatens me and they tell me “not to tell.”
  • I am confident I can handle a bribe or a threat from a stranger.
  • I am confident I can handle a bribe or a threat from someone I know.
  • I am confident I could describe someone else if I needed to.

Only three questions had a 33% confidence rating: 

  • I know how to identify a safe person if I am in public
  • I know the difference between a good and bad secret.
  • I am confident I understand “consent.”

While some areas, such as identifying safe individuals in public, understanding consent, and differentiating between good and bad secrets, showed lower confidence levels, the overall results indicate increased safety awareness and skill acquisition among the participants.  

Summary and Recommendations

The evaluation of the IMPACT:Ability abuse prevention program at Goodwill of Columbus demonstrated positive outcomes in equipping participants with essential skills for recognizing and responding to potential abuse situations.

In this example, a Goodwill client practices defending herself against unwanted touch.

The combination of survey data and video-recorded scenario practice collectively supports the notion that the participants accomplished the learning objectives, particularly in the areas of:

  1. Using assertive verbal and physical skills to set boundaries and protect themselves
  2. Recognizing unsafe situations and knowing how to respond
  3. Seeking help from safe individuals when needed

However, further work is needed to reinforce concepts like identifying safe individuals in public settings, understanding consent, and distinguishing between good and bad secrets.

Ideally, future iterations of the program will plan for greater emphasis on these areas and explore more robust evaluation methods to better assess skill retention over time.

Overall, the IMPACT:Ability abuse prevention program at Goodwill of Columbus has made significant strides in empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to recognize and respond to potential abuse situations, fostering a safer and more inclusive community.  

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