Abuse often occurs among populations that are vulnerable or defenseless to protect themselves. This includes young children, the elderly and individuals with disabilities. Studies estimate that people with intellectual disabilities face a 4 to 10 times higher risk of becoming victims of sexual abuse than those without intellectual disabilities. This sad reality is due to several factors that make people with intellectual disabilities easier targets for perpetrators and abusers.
Dependence on the Care of Others
People with intellectual disabilities often struggle with self-care tasks and living independently, which means they may be reliant upon others for their daily care. Unfortunately, many people with intellectual disabilities cannot feel safe in their own environments due to a prevalence of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse by supervisors and caregivers. Those in control of the care or well-being of the victim may betray them, such as:
- Schools and special education facilities
- Youth programs
- After-school programs
- Childcare providers
- Daycare centers
- Summer camps and overnight camps
- Sports programs
- Religious leaders
- Doctors and health care professionals
- Nursing home or adult care facility staff members
- Family members or friends of the family
People in a position of power or authority over an individual with an intellectual disability may abuse their relationship of trust to take advantage of the victim. Someone with an intellectual disability may not know any better but to trust the person who has been put in charge of their care – including going along with their inappropriate requests or demands.
The Intellectual Inability to Understand What Is Happening
An intellectual disability means that the individual may be unable to comprehend what abuse is or understand what is happening to them. Many people with intellectual disabilities are easily persuaded or deceived by their abusers, who may lie to them to get what they want. A perpetrator may lie and say that he or she is the victim’s boyfriend or girlfriend, for example, to convince the victim to engage in sexual acts. The person with the disability may not understand that he or she is being tricked or that the act of abuse is wrong. This can result in a victim never speaking up about abuse or reporting it to anyone.
The Inability to Communicate Their Abuse to Others
In some cases, victims of intellectual disability abuse are physically or mentally unable to communicate what is happening to them. They may be nonverbal, for example, or struggle in other ways to tell their story, such as not having the words to express sexual trauma. They may also be silenced by feelings of guilt, shame, intimidation or fear of abandonment. It can be difficult for any survivor of abuse to cope with a traumatic event and come forward. However, those with intellectual disabilities are extremely vulnerable and at a higher risk of being silenced.
The Physical Inability to Protect or Defend Themselves
In addition to potentially being unable to grasp what is happening intellectually or communicate the abuse to others, victims may be physically unable to defend themselves against perpetrators. It may be impossible for a victim to ward off an attacker, for example, due to physical disabilities, limitations, or trouble with movement or muscle strength. Victims may feel powerless, defenseless and scared. This makes them easy targets for abusers.
Are You or a Loved One a Victim of Intellectual Disability Abuse?
If you or someone you know has suffered from abuse of any kind as a person with an intellectual disability, you have legal rights in Kansas. Sexual abuse and other types of violence against those with intellectual disabilities can have long-lasting psychological effects on a victim, especially when sexual trauma is experienced during childhood.
The intellectual disability abuse attorneys at DRZ Law can help you pursue justice and demand fair financial compensation from an institution that failed to protect the survivor from abuse. We have years of experience going up against all types of institutions, from schools to medical providers, on behalf of our clients. Contact us to start with a free and confidential case consultation to learn more.