Review Indicates Disabled Children May Experience More Violence

Article excerpt

Children with disabilities are at a considerably higher risk of experiencing violence than their non-disabled counterparts, according to a review published July 12 in the Lancet.

The review found that worldwide, disabled children are 3.7 times more likely to be victims of any sort of violence, 3.6 times more likely to be victims of physical violence and 2.9 times more likely to be sexually victimized.

The review is the first to quantify the prevalence and magnitude of the risk to disabled children, who comprise about 5 percent of all children younger than 15 worldwide, the review's authors said.

The review examined studies conducted over the past 20 years in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Spain and Israel. It found that more than 25 percent of children with disabilities had been exposed to violence during their lifetimes. Types of violence included physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.

"The results of this review prove that children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, and their needs have been neglected for far too long," said Etienne Krug, director of the World Health Organization's Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability. "We know that specific strategies exist to prevent violence and mitigate its consequences. We now need to determine if these also work for children with disabilities."

Although the data are not entirely clear, the researchers said the review indicates that children with mental or intellectual disabilities seem to have a higher prevalence and risk of violence than children with other disabilities.

"The impact of a child's disability on their quality of life is very much dependent on the way other individuals treat them," said Mark Bellis, DSc, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, a lead researcher on the review. …