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Children with Disabilities and Sexual Abuse

Date: June 27, 2013 Categories: Blog

Children with Disabilities and Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of children with disabilities is an alarming but greatly ignored issue. Children with disabilities–such as physical, mental, intellectual– are 2.9 times more likely to be sexually abused than children without disabilities. Vulnerability to sexual abuse increases depending on the child’s disability. For instance, children with intellectual and mental health disabilities are 4.6 times more likely to be sexually abused than children without disabilities. Of child sexual abuse victims, 11% report having a disability.

Certain factors have been identified as contributing to sexual abuse among children with disabilities:

Children with disabilities rely on others to care for them. Personal care for children with disabilities may be performed by a family members of care workers, which can blur the line of appropriate and inappropriate touches. All children are taught to listen to authorities, but this is especially enforced for children with disabilities.Children who are taught to always listen to adults maybe less likely to understand if an adult is hurting them and to disclose abuse.

Responding to sexual abuse with children with disabilities can be challenging. Child sexual abuse victims who have disabilities face barriers in seeking justice as well as in healing with help of professionals.

Prevention concerning sexual abuse of children with disabilities has fallen short. Few tactics for prevention specifically among this population have been created and disseminated.

Low levels of awareness of sexual abuse of children with disabilities. When child sexual abuse is mentioned, little attention is given to children with disabilities. Some people may think of the adult model of attraction and may deem children with disabilities as unattractive to perpetrators. In reality, perpetrators seek children who are vulnerable to victimization.

As advocates for all children, we need to learn to work to prevent child sexual abuse and remove barriers for children to heal. If you would like  more information, please contact the Jefferson Children’s Advocacy Center at 504-364-3857.

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Children’s Bureau of HHS. (2013). Sexual Abuse of Children With Disabilities by Children’s Bureau of HHS.

Harrell, S., Smith, N. (2013). Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities: A National Snapshot. VERA Institute of Justice. Retrieved from: http://www.vera.org/pubs/sexual-abuse-of-children-with-disabilities-national-snapshot