The rate of rape or sexual assault against persons with multiple disability types is 2.8 per 1,000. (1)
Sexual assault and abuse of people with disabilities often goes unreported. If you or someone you care about has a disability and has been sexually assaulted or abused, the most important thing to know is that it is never the victim’s fault. Help and support are available.
Sixty-five percent of rapes or sexual assaults against persons with disabilities were committed against those with multiple disability types, the highest percentage among the crime types examined.
While 49% of persons with disabilities had multiple disability types, an estimated 65.4% of rape or sexual assault against persons with disabilities occurred against those with multiple disability types.
The rate of rape or sexual assault against persons with a single disability type (1.4 per 1,000) was lower than the rate for those with multiple disability types (2.8 per 1,000). (1)
A higher percentage of violence against persons with disabilities (40%) was committed by persons the victims knew well or who were casual acquaintances than against persons without disabilities (32%). (1)
UNDERSTANDING THE CRIME
People with disabilities are victimized by crime at higher rates than the rest of the population, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The term “disability,” as used by the Department of Justice in the NCVS, includes a wide range of limitations such as sensory (vision, hearing), cognitive, self-care, and ambulatory or mobility limitations.
People with different disabilities may face different challenges and have very different needs. Some disabilities may put people at higher risk for crimes like sexual assault or abuse.
Someone who needs regular assistance may rely on a person who is abusing them for care, a common factor in elder abuse. The perpetrator may use this power to threaten, coerce, or force someone into non-consensual sex or sexual activities.
An abuser may take away access to the tools a person with a disability uses to communicate, such as a computer or phone.
People with disabilities may be less likely to be taken seriously when they make a report of sexual assault or abuse. They may also face challenges in accessing services to make a report in the first place. For example, someone who is Deaf for Deaf-Blind may face challenges accessing communication tools, like a phone, to report the crime or get help.
Many people with disabilities may not understand or lack information about healthy sexuality and the types of touching that are appropriate or inappropriate. This can be especially challenging if a person’s disability requires other people to touch them to provide care.
THE ROLE OF CONSENT
Consent is crucial when any person engages in sexual activity, but it plays an even bigger, and potentially more complicated role when someone has a disability. Some disabilities may make it difficult to communicate consent to participate in sexual activity, and perpetrators may take advantage of this. People with disabilities may also not be given the same education about sexuality and consent that people without disabilities receive. In addition, someone who has a developmental or intellectual disability may not have the ability to consent to sexual activity, as defined by the state laws.
In Georgia, a victim who has a developmental disability or lacks the mental capacity to make ordinary judgments on his or her own is unable to give consent to sexual acts. Drake v. State, 239 Ga. 232 (1977); Baise v. The State, 502 S.E.2d 492, 232 Ga. App. 556 (1998).
"However, in a forcible rape case where the victim indicates consent and does not resist, but by reason of mental retardation she is incapable of intelligently consenting, the lack of actual force necessary to overcome a resistant victim in other cases is supplied constructively by the rule that no more force need be used than that necessary to effect the penetration made by the defendant." -Baise v. The State, 502 S.E.2d 492, 232 Ga. App. 556 (1998).
In Georgia, for a victim who is physically or mentally incompetent of knowingly and intelligently giving consent to sexual acts, the requirement of force is found in what is called constructive force. Durr v. State, 493 S.E.2d 210 (1997), 229 Ga. App. 103 (1997).
"When the victim is physically or mentally unable to give consent to the act, as when he or she is intoxicated, drugged, or mentally incompetent, the requirement of force is found in the constructive force, that is, in the use of such force as is necessary to effect the penetration made by the defendant." Cook v. The State (2016)
In many instances, the person who has a disability may rely on the perpetrator for care or support, making it even more difficult to come forward. Take steps to reduce the risk of something happening to a loved one by asking prospective caregivers questions about safety and standards of care.
Everyone has the right to safety. If you or someone you know has a disability and has experienced sexual assault or abuse, there is support available.
If you know of or suspect sexual assault or abuse, you can report it. Call your local police station or 911 to contact law enforcement. If the person being abused is considered a vulnerable adult under your state laws (for Georgia: O.C.G.A. ง 30-5-3), you may also be able to contact the local Department of Human Services or Department of Social Services. Depending on the situation and location, you may be considered a mandatory reporter. The statute for mandated reporting in Georgia falls under: O.C.G.A. ง 30-5-4.
If you are Deaf, you can access help via video phone 1.855.812.1001 (Monday to Friday 9 a.m.—5 p.m. PST). Learn about other Deaf services at The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or our hotline directly at 706.571.6010.
You can chat online anonymously with a support specialist trained by RAINN at online.rainn.org. The support specialists who answer hotline chats are specially trained to respond with respect, patience, and understanding.
The Center also provides services geared towards the different members of the Disability Communities.
A study conducted by: Monika Mitra, PhD, Vera E. Mouradian, PhD, Marci Diamond, MPA
"Among 25,756 survey respondents, approximately 21.1% of Massachusetts men and 21.0% of women reported a disability. The prevalence of lifetime sexual violence victimization was 13.9% among men with disabilities; 3.7% among men without disabilities; 26.6% among women with disabilities; and 12.4% among women without disabilities. Similarly, men with disabilities were more likely than men without disabilities to report lifetime completed and attempted rape and past-year sexual violence victimization. Multivariate analyses controlling for sociodemographic characteristics indicated that men with disabilities were more than four times more likely to report lifetime and past-year victimization than men without disabilities."
1. Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009-2015 - Statistical Tables, NCJ 250632, related documents, and additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics can be found at www.bjs.gov.
2. Brault, M.W. (2012). Americans with Disabilities: 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Household Economic Studies: Current Population Reports.
3. Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Census Bureau, July 25, 2012.
4. Hispanic Heritage Month, U.S. Census Bureau, August 6, 2012