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The Overlooked Victims of Sexual Abuse

July 17, 2018

The efforts made to identify and support victims of sexual abuse have resulted in shocking revelations, such as the results of a survey in which 14 million women identified themselves as being victims of sexual abuse at their places of employment. Headlines of high-profile figures from every industry and profession being accused of engaging in improper, and frequently unlawful, behavior have become commonplace as society wakes up to what has long been a hidden or ignored issue.

Sexual Assaults Against People with Disabilities

It is surprising that in the age of the #MeToo movement the story of a segment of the population that is seven times more likely than others to be victims of sexual assault has only recently been reported. It was earlier this year that NPR broadcasted a story that included a physician, who primarily works with patients who are intellectually disabled, that stated that half of her female patients have been sexually assaulted.

A study seems to confirm what the doctor observed in her practice. It reported that 83 percent of women and 39 percent of men with developmental disabilities have been victimized. Even more startling is the revelation that about half of intellectually disabled people are the victims of sexual abuse on at least 10 occasions.

When Someone Lacks the Ability to Consent

There are several reasons for the high incidence of sexual assaults committed against developmentally disabled victims, including:

• Reluctance to report abuse: Individuals living in group homes or other facilities where they are dependent upon others for their care could be reluctant or afraid to report abuse.
• Lack of sex education: Disabled individuals may not receive the same instruction in sexual development.
• Unable to recognize abuse: A person with an intellectual disability may not recognize the behavior as sexual abuse either because of not being aware of the accepted social behavior.

Victims frequently do not understand the concept of consent as it applies to sexual activity. Under California law, a developmental disability could render a person incapable of giving legal consent. Someone who knows or should have known of the disability could be charged with rape, but proving someone only casually acquainted with the victim knew of the disability could be difficult.

How States are Addressing the Problem

There is legislation pending in states around the country to make it easier to prosecute offenders who sexually assault people with intellectual disabilities. Pennsylvania, for example, would allow the victim to testify in chambers or other places outside the courtroom where the witness might feel more comfortable and at ease. A bill in California would have allocated money to prosecutors to facilitate prosecution of sexual assault cases in which the victims are intellectually disabled by allowing them to hire more staff, but the legislation has not been passed.

Attorneys Offering a Solution

One way for the victim of a sexual assault who has an intellectual disability to obtain relief is by pursuing a claim for damages with the assistance of the dedicated attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP. We have been aggressive in seeking justice and compensation for the victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment for more than 25 years. Our knowledge of the law and experience give us the ability to develop winning strategies to obtain maximum compensation for our clients. Contact us today by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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