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Violence Against People with Disabilities Occurs at Alarming Rates

Unfortunately, because the research on abuse of people with disabilities is limited in number and methodology, there is no authoritative research that details how many people with disabilities experience abuse. However, the limited research that exists suggests that people with disabilities are abused at alarming rates. In 2012, for example, 1.3 million violent crimes—including rape and physical assault—occurred against people with disabilities and that number has been steadily increasing since 2008, making people with disabilities one of the most harmed groups in the United States.

People with disabilities are at greater risk of being victimized.

  • 3 times more likely to experience violent victimization as adolescents and adults
  • 3 times more likely to experience rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and robbery
  • 3 times more likely to be sexually abused as children
  • 1.6 times more likely to experience abuse or neglect as children
  • 1.5 times more likely to experience repeated abuse or neglect as children

Risk of violent victimization is even higher for some people with disabilities. This includes: women with disabilities, people with cognitive or developmental disabilities, people with psychiatric disabilities, and people with multiple disabilities.

Why are so many people with disabilities abused?

A number of factors contribute to people with disabilities experienc­ing higher rates of domestic and sexual violence and higher recurrence rates. Isolation within a community, reliance on caregivers for personal care, and limited transportation options can create unsafe situations for people with disabilities. Perpetrators may per­ceive people with disabilities as easy targets because of societal stereotypes and ex­tremely low rates of prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against people with disabili­ties. Finally, the severe underreporting of these crimes serves to further compound the overall inability of the system to address this problem. Learn more.

There is still so much we do not know.

Many fundamental questions about abuse of people remain unanswered. They include:

  • How often do people with disabilities experience child abuse, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking?
  • How do rates of abuse vary by disability type? How do rates vary by residence type (group home, institution, etc.)?
  • Who are the perpetrators?
  • How many survivors with disabilities report abuse to law enforcement? Of the crimes reported to law enforcement, how many lead to arrest, prosecution, or conviction?
  • How many survivors with disabilities seek help from disability organizations and victim services organizations? What are their experiences when they reach out for help?
  • What strategies are effective at preventing abuse of people with disabilities?
  • What practices are most effective at meeting the needs of survivors with disabilities?

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