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More Than 1 In 4 Kids With Disabilities Abused


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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.

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. Carmen Allen says:

    what is wrong with people?

  2. Brian Hartman says:

    I had good, loving parents growing up. I have to agree with Carmen here. WTF is wrong with people?!

  3. Thomas C. Wood says:

    Not surprising…
    I myself was raised by a parent who was certifiably mentally-ill/insane, & who never got the proper treatment during her lifetime. Being Autistic & having Mild Cerebral palsy, I was my mentally-ill Mom’s “whipping boy” when she was violently psychotic.

  4. Bonnie Jean Smith says:

    “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.”
    These are dangerous assumptions….maybe there is “little information from many low and middle -income countries [families] where disabilities and violence are often more prevalent while supports are less available”.
    I say assumptions because of the words being used; “maybe”, “could actually be”,”with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable”. These preceding phrases and words echo of a dark time in human history that quickly went from..
    “More than nine-thousand idiots, epileptics, and insane in these United States, destitute of appropriate care and protection. Bound with galling chains, bowed beneath fetters and heavy iron balls, attached to drag-chains, lacerated with ropes, scourged with rods, and terrified beneath storms of profane execrations and cruel blows; now subject to jibes, and scorn, and torturing tricks, now abandoned to the most loathsome necessities or subject to the vilest and most outrageous violations.”
    First society starts by saving the intellectually disabled from becoming victims, this quickly turns into the intellectually disabled becoming the deviants that we must save society from then they are placed in those darn institutions again.
    Institutions that cost far more money to house each individual than to pay for supports for them to live in their own community.

  5. vmgillen says:

    Let us be VERY careful with this information. Overall, 1 in 5 children in the US – “generic” and “special” – is abused. People with disabilities – particularly DD and ID, are in frequent contact with professionals who are charged with reporting ANY suspicion of abuse… which leads to incidence reports when, for example, two adults with Down Syndrome want to be partners. All vulnerable people should be protected – but protection must be considered, not reactionary. . .

  6. Tamara says:

    I’m kind of confused by some of the responses here. I’m not sure why some seem to assume these children are abused by their parents. People with intellectual disabilities are more apt to be abused by teachers, bus staff, and other professionals as well as their non disabled peers.

    Why should we be “very careful” with this information? So more abusers can get by with the abuse? I don’t get it.

  7. YOYOYO says:

    People with ID and any other issue which limits amount of communication (if any) are particularly vulnerable from ANY SOURCE because they cannot tell! My son, now 27, was tortured by a teacher repeatedly as a 10 yo – until a person from the school notified me. As a teen, pinched and hit by an aid until he retaliated and knocked this person down – and then was charged with assault – but saved because another person in a w/c saw the interaction and spoke up. As an adult in a ‘training center’ bullied by a staff person until he was afraid to go and shut down into a catatonic state – again saved by the VOICE of a staff member who spoke up. Lack of ability to communicate allows much abuse .

  8. vmgillen says:

    @tamara: careful because reactions to horrific events can lead to unintended consequences.

    A-There is a bill pending in NYC, for example, to ban child abusers fro children’s rooms in libraries. A good idea, on the surface… but how will it be implemented? like playgrounds, where adults are not allowed unless accompanied by a child? -what if the adult is “grooming” the child for abuse? or, perhaps based on the descirptions from neighborhood sex offender alerts (black man 24 yo 6’4″… yeah, right) the librarian will -what? call security?

    B. My family was subject to constant harassment by the military – the command felt it bad for morale to have a family with disabled children on base, and wanted us out. Charges leading to investigation were often based on the “fact” that “everyone knows kids with disabilities are more likely to be abused…”

  9. Marymurphy says:

    I concur that students w disabilities more likely to be abused by staff. Preschool therapists need to monitor ‘irritating’ behaviors thatostada to develop in response to social interactions. And try to replace it w positive behaviors. Extinguish irritating one. If child is very difficult to console, cries a lot, squeals ‘eeee’ that child is at risk of abuse by staff who can’t take listening to it all day. Team needs to be trained on burnout signs, like referring to kid in negative ways, ‘my dog is smarter than him’. don’t believe that admin and Child Protective Services will help out. They don’t want the parent know that teacher abuses kid. I’m sped teacher. Saw colleague abuse child. I went to parent because admin and CPS did nothing. Verbal Hilda could have reported it. Need to make sure that you have laws in state that do OT allow CPS and school to over for each other. Mandated reporting. But the higher ups try to cover it up and not tell parents. Obama realized this and had Dept of Justice investigate and true- CPS and school don’t tell parents of non verbal children when Child is abused by staff. Positive behavior up port works. But- have to watch if Child has chronic whines. Make sure Director of Sped knows this so classroom can be watched for burnout. Suggest parents mike their child or put camera monitor in clothing.

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