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Sexual abuse of people with developmental disabilities

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The sexual abuse of people with developmental disabilities is unusually common because of the greater risk of victimization of such people.

Risk of victimizationEdit

According to research people with disabilities are at a greater risk for victimization of sexual assault or sexual abuse because of lack of understanding.[1] The rate of sexual abuse happening to people with disabilities is shocking, yet most of these cases will go unnoticed.

Abusive incidentsEdit

About 20% of females and 10% of males are sexually abused in the US every year. The percentage is even higher among people with disabilities. According to research, more than 90% of people with developmental disabilities will experience some form of sexual abuse at some time in their lives. 49% will experience 10 or more abusive incidents.[2]

Abnormal frequency of rapeEdit

Other studies suggest 68% of girls with developmental disabilities and 30% of boys with developmental disabilities will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday. According to research 15,000 to 19,000 of people with developmental disabilities are raped each year in the United States.[3]

Exploitation of ignoranceEdit

Sexual abuse is common among people with disabilities because the person being abused may not realize that sexual abuse can harm them and some individuals with disabilities may not be able to tell anyone that they were sexually abused. Typically people with disabilities learn not to question caregivers or others in authority. Sadly, it is the authority figures that are often committing the abuse. Research suggests that 97% to 99% of abusers are known and trusted by the victim who has the developmental disability.[4]

Lack of communication skillsEdit

Usually people with disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse are not provided with a way to “work through” their traumatic experience. Some of these victims severely lack communication skills that prevent them from even talking. Generally, the more severe the disability, the greater the difficulty in accessing services. The benefit of Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” among people with developmental disabilities is uncertain as well as whether or not sexual abuse impacts people with developmental disabilities as strongly as others without disabilities.

Benefits of counselingEdit

However, everyone who experiences sexual abuse, people with disabilities or people without disabilities, are affected some way, and should be able to access treatment for sexual abuse. Human service workers must understand that people with developmental disabilities can benefit from counseling even if they are non verbal.[5]

See also Edit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Sobsey & Varnhagen, 1989
  2. Valenti-Hein & Schwartz, 1995
  3. Sobsey, 1994
  4. Baladerian, 1991
  5. Leigh Ann Reynolds


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