Children with disabilities are four times more likely than typically developing kids to be victims of violence, according to a first-of-its-kind global analysis.
In a review of 20 years worth of data, researchers found that more than a quarter of children with disabilities have been exposed to some type of violence, be it physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.
Their findings, published Thursday in the journal The Lancet, are based on an analysis of 17 studies conducted between 1990 and 2010 involving more than 18,000 kids in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Spain and Israel.
The report indicates that 20 percent of kids with disabilities experienced physical violence while nearly 14 percent were exposed to sexual violence.
Youngsters with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable — even as compared to other kids with disabilities — when it comes to sexual violence, the researchers found.
Despite the grim picture that the analysis offers, the report authors say that the situation could actually be worse than the data reflects. That’s because little information is available from many low and middle-income countries where disabilities and violence are often more prevalent while supports are less available.
“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, which contributed to the study. “An agenda needs to be set for action.”
The high risk of victimization is not limited to children with disabilities, however. The research team behind the current report issued a similar analysis earlier this year looking at the experiences of adults with disabilities. They found that such individuals are one-and-a-half times more likely to be victims of physical or sexual attacks.