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Sexual & Gender-Based Violence of the Differently Abled

“Hello there! I’m here to provide you with a bit of information on the various facets of abuse involving differently abled individuals and their rights. Experiencing abuse in any form is NOT OKAY, but what you are experiencing as a result of abuse is valid. What you, as a bystander, are going through while supporting a survivor is absolutely okay and typical too! If you need additional resources or just someone to talk to, feel free to reach out to Imaara Foundation"

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Written By: Megha Kishore

The differently abled are often fed ideas that they are unworthy of love or unwelcome in society. Abusers reinforce this message. Sexual violence against differently abled individuals is a silent epidemic, often overlooked within and outside of reproductive health, human rights, and justice circles.

According to statistics reported by the Bureau of Justice (2009 –2014) National Crime Victimization Survey:

  • people who were differently abled were three times more likely than abled individuals to experience serious violent crime including rape and sexual assault. Additionally, having multiple disabilities can increase a person’s risk of rape and sexual assault.

  • children with mental health or intellectual conditions were nearly five times more likely than abled peers to experience sexual abuse. There exists a history of not discussing issues of sexual violence perpetrated on the differently abled largely due to stereotyping of differently abled women's' sexuality, power dynamics, and economic inequality (Sexual Violence and the Disability Community, 2021)

  • Crimes involving abuse perpetrated towards individuals who are intellectually differently abled often remain unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished. Consequently, the abuser remains free to abuse again. The survivor is often re-victimized multiple times (Shapiro, 2018).

According to a global survey from 2005:

  • 83% of women who are differently abled will be sexually assaulted throughout their lives.

  • Just 3% of sexual abuses involving people who are developmentally differently abled are ever reported.

  • 50% of girls who had impaired hearing had been sexually abused compared to 25% of girls who could hear

  • 54% of boys who had impaired hearing had been sexually abused in comparison to 10% of boys who could hear

  • Women who were differently abled were more likely to have a history of undesired sex with an intimate partner (19.7% vs. 8.2%).

  • Approximately 80% of women and 30% of men with developmental disabilities had been sexually assaulted. Half of the women studied had been assaulted more than 10 times (Disability Justice, 2022).

What are some effects that sexual violence can have on the differently abled?

Sexual violence can increase the possibility of the survivor or victim experiencing:

  • a trauma-induced mental health disability

According to End Rape on Campus, women survivors or victims can experience:

  • depression

  • post-traumatic stress disorders

  • alcohol or other drug use at rates higher than individuals' who have not experienced sexual violence.

Survivors may also experience:

  • physical - sexually transmitted infections, bruises, and serious physical injuries)

  • psychosomatic - difficulty sleeping and headaches

  • behavioral - aggressiveness and withdrawal effects (Sexual Violence and the Disability Community, 2021)

What are some factors that cause violence to be perpetrated against differently abled people?

What is the relationship between gender and people who are differently abled?

What global and Indian rights and laws are relevant to the differently abled community?

How can you help the differently abled?

What are the references for this article?


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