The #MeToo movement shed a light on how pervasive sexual harassment and assault are in the United States and abroad, but the most vulnerable haven’t yet become part of the conversation. According to new statistics, people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a higher rate than almost any other group. Their stories haven’t gotten the same attention as famous actresses’, however, and the extent to which they’re victimized is just now coming to light.
According to unpublished Justice Department data obtained by NPR, people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate more than seven times higher than people with no disabilities.
“If this were any other population, the world would be up in arms,” Nancy Thaler, a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services deputy secretary in charge of the state’s developmental disability programs, told NPR. “We would be irate and it would be the No. 1 health crisis in this country.”
A July report from the Bureau of Justice found that people with any type of disability are more than two times more likely to be sexually assaulted than people without disabilities, but there were previously no government statistics on the subject concerning intellectual disabilities, specifically. Because the intellectually disabled rely on others for daily care, often live in group homes or institutions, and can have difficulty with speech, they’re especially vulnerable to assault.
A 2011 report published by The Arc, an organization that advocates for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, explains that those individuals may not understand what constitutes assault or know how to communicate what happened to them: