Sexual Abuse and Disability

Jan 31, 2011
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Sexual abuse consists of a variety of sexual activities that is forced upon another without their consent. These activities may include but are not limited to the use of sexual language, exposure to pornography, flashing, inappropriate touching, oral sex and rape. In a study from 2009 by the Bureau of Justice, sexual assault and rape were twice as likely to be committed against women with disabilities compared to those without disabilities. Men with disabilities were also abused more than women without disabilities. Often, most people with intellectual or developmental disabilities do not know they are being abused. They do not question their caregivers or other people in influential positions.  Those most likely to abuse are known by the victim such as family members, home caregivers, transportation providers and personal care attendants. In 1991, research by Baladerian has shown that 97-99 percent of abusers are well-known and often depended upon by the injured party.

According to Nancy Fitzgibbons, associate professor of social work at Minnesota State University, Mankato and co-author of a curriculum for police officers about the victimization of people with disabilities, those behind sexual abuse may view people with disabilities as “less than human”. There have been many stories where the caregiver abuses the victim that depends upon them.  Some warning signs may include problems sleeping, bite marks, urinary soreness, torn or lost clothing, or recurring illnesses.

Unfortunately, people with disabilities may never tell anyone they have been abused.  It is rare that they are  educated about sexuality and may not understand the difference between a safe situation and a potentially dangerous situation. It can be difficult to say no to sexually abusive conduct for some people with intellectual disabilities, especially if it is a caregiver. According to the Office of the Public Advocate report, 86 cases of abuse of people with disabilities within the past four years have not found justice for the victims. Few of these cases resulted in police involvement.

Sexual abuse is not a topic to be taken lightly, irregardless if one has a disability and should especially be discussed with those individuals that statistically fall in the high risk categories. For more information follow these links:

Author: Melissa