Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Violence against Women with Disabilities: It May Have Started in Childhood: "There Are Reports ... That Children with Disabilities Are Four to 10 Times More Likely to Be Abused Than Children without Disabilities." "Unfortunately, the 'Dirty Secret' about Abuse of Children with Disabilities Is All Too True."

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Violence against Women with Disabilities: It May Have Started in Childhood: "There Are Reports ... That Children with Disabilities Are Four to 10 Times More Likely to Be Abused Than Children without Disabilities." "Unfortunately, the 'Dirty Secret' about Abuse of Children with Disabilities Is All Too True."

Article excerpt

CHILDREN

Newspaper stories, television news series and professional publications are rife with reports of the neglect and abuse of children; in particular of youngsters with disabilities and, more so, sexual abuse of female children with disabilities. "The nature of a child's disability may make discovery of the abuse extremely difficult ... nearly half of all abused and neglected children receive no treatment or services following assessment." (3) "Some researchers suggest that children with disabilities may have increased vulnerability to abuse because of society's response to the disability ... Children with disabilities may be perceived as less valuable than other children." (4)

* 87 percent of the perpetrators of child abuse are parents or family relatives, compared to less than one percent of perpetrators who are child care providers or residential facility staff members.

* There is a significant relationship between parental substance abuse and child abuse. There is a particular increase in cases of abuse of youngsters in the month of January. Limited funds are available for drugs after spending monies for the holidays.

* Reports of child abuse increase in the summer (hot weather) and on Fridays during the school year (teachers are afraid for the safety of children over the weekend).

* Native American children and African-American children have the highest rate of victimization. Asian-Pacific islander children have the lowest rate.

* More boys with disabilities are physically abused and neglected, but more girls with disabilities are sexually abused. (2), (5), (6)

* "Physical abuse of children has become so common place that it is only when the death of a child occurs that the news media may carry the story and then only when it is gruesome." (7)

(See detailed review of the victimization of children with disabilities reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (8) )

ADULTS, IN PARTICULAR FEMALES

The reality is that for many children, particularly female children with disabilities who have been abused, the maltreatment does not end in the adult years. "Abuse is a very serious problem for women with disabilities. They have even fewer options for escaping or resolving the abuse than women in general. The same percentage (62 percent) of women with and without disabilities had experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, but women with disabilities experienced abuse for longer periods of time." (9) Thirteen percent of women with physical disabilities describe experiencing physical or sexual abuse in the past year. (10) In addition, "... women with disabilities are more likely to experience abuse at the hands of a greater number of perpetrators and for longer periods ... They have even fewer options for escaping or resolving the abuse than women in general." (10)

In addition to the types of abuse experienced by women in general, women with disabilities experience some types of abuse that are specifically related to their disabilities.

* Disability-related emotional abuse takes the forms of emotional abandonment and rejection, threatening, belittling, and blaming, denial of disability and accusation of faking.

* Disability-related physical abuse takes the forms of physical restraint or confinement; withholding orthotic devices or medication and refusing to provide assistance with essential personal needs, such as toileting, hygiene, and eating.

* Disability-related sexual abuse takes the forms of demanding or expecting sexual activity in return for help, and taking advantage of physical weakness and an inaccessibility to other services. (9)

SEEKING HELP

A recent national study by the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities showed the most common abusive perpetrators were husbands or live-in companions. Women with disabilities were more likely to experience abuse by medical professionals and by parents than women without disabilities. …

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