Survivors with Disabilities


Among adults who are developmentally disabled, as many as 83% of females and 32% of males are victims of sexual assault. 
Johnson, I., Sigler R. 2000. “Forced Sexual Intercourse Among Intimates,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 15

49% of people with developmental disabilities, who are victims of sexual violence, will experience 10 or more abusive incidents. 
Valenti-Heim, D., Schwartz, L. 1995. The Sexual Abuse Interview for Those with Developmental Disabilities. 


In addition to other forms of sexual violence, people with dis/abilities may also face:
  • Lack of respect for privacy and unwanted exposure during personal care routines like bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom.
  • Withholding of medication or assistive devices by caregivers.
  • Intimidation by caregivers.
  • Forced abortion, sterilization, or pregnancy.
  • Exploitation.

Barriers to reporting and receiving resources for people with dis/abilities:
  • Isolation
  • Inability to consent to medical care
  • Lack of education about sexuality/victimization 
  • Inability to report or participate in the criminal justice process
  •  Lack of accessibility and support when disclosing or reporting
  • Dependence on the abuser for care or access to adaptive equipment/service animal 
  • Not being believed by loved ones, acquaintances, service providers, and/or police
  • Fear of being institutionalized if they report
Guidelines for helping a survivor with dis/abilities:
    • Ask the person if they need help instead of just assuming that they do.
    • Some people with developmental disabilities have had little to no sex education, and therefore may not know how to describe what happened to them. In these cases, using pictures, drawing, and dolls can often be helpful.
    • Some people may have trouble communicating. Find out whether they have an assistive communication device, use sign language, lip-read, or need other communication help.
    • Some people with cognitive disabilities are less able to understand sarcasm and vocal tone. In these cases, do not use slang, idioms, or vague language.
    • Avoid offensive terms and disempowering words, such as "victim of" and "suffering from."
    • Don't ask personal questions about a person's disability.
    • Look for local professionals to help them through the Florida Department of Children and Families (877-595-0384) or the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (850-488-4180)
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      Elliot Gardner,
      Jan 26, 2016, 4:14 PM
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