Children with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely than their non-disabled peers to be sexually abused, according to a March 2013 study by the Vera Institute of Justice. Children with intellectual and mental health disabilities are 4.6 times more to be sexually abused.
In 2012, an estimated 686,000 children were reportedly were subject to maltreatment. Nearly 10 percent of those were victims of sexual abuse.
The report aims to expose the seldom-addressed challenges that confront children with disabilities who are sexually abused.
Children with disabilities often receive inadequate information about sexual health and relationships or sexual education that isn’t tailored to their needs, situations or capacities. They also encounter ableism, or discrimination against people with disabilities, which results in greater isolation and higher expectation of unquestioned obedience. They often require adult involvement in transportation, personal hygiene. These factors, along with communication challenges leave them vulnerable to sexual predators who, often seek employment with organizations that allow them access to children with disabilities.
The report offers recommendations for creating a national strategy that addresses sexual abuse occurring to children with disabilities. It encourages forums on the local, state and national levels for people with disabilities, their family members and professionals in health care, criminal justice, disability and family outlets to create a dialogue and advance work in key areas such as public awareness, funding and prevention efforts.
Data sources for the report include the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women and Ms. Foundation.
The Vera Institute of Justice is a nonprofit organization that offers justice and safety resources for government leaders and civil society.