What is the risk of child sexual abuse for a child with disabilities?
This FAQ was compiled in partnership with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and with the expert review of Dr. Scott Modell, Deputy Commissioner Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
Children with disabilities are almost three times more likely to be sexually abused than non-disabled children, according to a review commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability.
One of the biggest factors contributing to this increased risk is the reluctance of adults to provide sexuality education to children with disabilities. Additional factors placing children at higher risk for sexual abuse include the need for assistance with daily living activities such as hygiene help, lack of social supports for themselves and their caregivers, misunderstanding about children’s sexual behaviors, and overall stigma and discrimination.
In specific, children with intellectual and developmental disabilities can also be more vulnerable as social skills, decision making skills and overall judgment may be impacted by the disability. Children with disabilities who reside in institutions are also at an increased risk for abuse for reasons that include 1:1 personal care situations, communication barriers and lack of information about normal sex development situations. In all settings, communication impairments directly impact the ability of a child to disclose and/or ask for help.