Protecting special needs individuals from sexual assault

Sexual assault against the intellectually disabled remains an often-ignored problem. Unfortunately, the issues facing abuse victims with cognitive impairments can be significant. Much like with other vulnerable populations such as young children and the elderly, sexual predators rely on special needs victims being unable to communicate clearly. Even if they can communicate, the victim's plight is often ignored as unreliable. For these reasons, it is very difficult for prosecutors to get convictions against perpetrators for their crimes.

The problem is bigger than you might think. According to data compiled by National Public Radio, people with intellectual disabilities suffer from seven times the rate of sexual abuse as the rest of the population.

Preying on the vulnerable

Sexual abuse is about power. Predators use their power over the vulnerable because they believe they can get away with their crimes. Whether it is a religious leader taking advantage of their authority over a youth congregant or an assisted living provider abusing a resident, sexual predators look to exploit their positions of power to pursue their own twisted agendas.

Fighting back

The good news is that many people are fighting back. According to NPR, a number of prosecutors have begun bringing charges against perpetrators of sex crimes against the disabled. And community members are taking an active role, for example by teaching sex education classes to special needs students that have a heavy emphasis on preventing sexual abuse. Many disabled individuals have themselves become advocates by helping those in need and getting the word out so that victims have a voice that cannot be ignored.

Preventing sexual abuse in all forms

In the movement to stop sexual abuse and harassment, it is important not to leave any vulnerable populations behind. It is encouraging that awareness is growing regarding this important issue, and that prosecutors are making it a priority to punish the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes.

Sexual abuse victims also have civil options, which can be another path to justice. Through a civil lawsuit, victims can hold perpetrators accountable and help prevent future instances of abuse from occurring.

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