#It’s Even Uglier
Sexual abuse of women has been getting a lot of buzz lately. Sometimes it seems as if Anita Hill never happened. It is about time these crimes are being noticed and hopefully, once in the glare of light, will decrease.
However, there is another population that is 7 times more likely to be sexually abused than a typical person. That population is made up of intellectually disabled people, mostly females but some males as well.
Rape and sexual abuse are crimes of power not sex. It must be an ultimate power trip to sexually abuse an individual who does not necessarily even understand what is happening. I don’t even want to imagine how dysfunctional these perpetrators must be.
Multiple reasons are given for the huge disparity between these rates of abuse other than the mental sickness of the perps. One of the major reasons is the isolation and typical human need for love and affection experienced by many girls/women with intellectual disabilities. Often times people with disabilities lack the skills to discern real affection from a scam artist who is looking for sexual power. So they can become willing victims of a predator and accepting of the stories they are being told. Social isolation is another reason. Once out of school, people with disabilities miss the social contact with friends.
And VERY unfortunately, some of these attacks come from care givers at group homes, people who drive the vans transporting people with disabilities, and sometimes “typical” boys wanting to show off. There was a case in New Jersey a number of years ago where several varsity football players at a high school took a girl receiving special ed services into the locker room and took turns raping her. The poor girl believed them when they said they loved her. Just as assault on typical women is not reported often enough, assault on females with disabilities is seldom reported for various reasons, most related to the disability.
People with disabilities make poor reporters, sometimes even refusing to admit the assault was not consensual. Law enforcement is overwhelmed with cases they can successfully prosecute and aren’t necessarily looking for more work. Families are embarrassed that they “let this happen” to the individual in their care.
Just as we need to eliminate sexual abuse against typical women, we must redouble our efforts for those with disabilities who are at much greater risk.
Middle and high school clinical and guidance services must confront the issue directly. Students need to be taught the difference between a real romantic relationship and one that is just looking for power and sex. We need a structured curriculum to do this. Families need to not be afraid to acknowledge that their children may be sexually active. We need to strongly and directly teach about personal boundaries.
We need to do more to provide our people with disabilities with healthy social connections well into adulthood. We need to bring this crime out of the closet and make sure the events are reported to the proper authorities. The first step to stopping something is to recognize its existence and then to count it. We Americans are obsessed with counting things.
In the end, we need to help our people with disabilities have enough self-respect and confidence in themselves that they are not vulnerable to false promises. And that they are loved and cared about because of who they are, not in spite of it.
#me too, is getting uglier.