For centuries, sexual abuse of all kinds went unnoticed or ignored. In a world where the victim is deemed deserving of the crime due to some twisted social beliefs, crimes, such as these, go most of the time unreported. Criminals would prey on the helpless expecting no resistance, no consequence for their cruel and vile actions. However, as time progressed, victims started raising their hands and pointing fingers. The vulnerable are seeking justice, protection while healing from their deep scars. However, there is a part of this tale many are neglecting. While sexual victims of all ages and genders are finally getting the help they most definitely need, a group filled with vulnerable individuals is still unnoticed. Disable people in general and disabled children in specific are most vulnerable in the face of sexual abuse due to many reasons.
Misconceptions surrounding disabled children
Many people are ignorant enough to believe that children with disabilities won’t face such problems. Though they are one of the most vulnerable groups in the entire world, many people would turn a blind eye to their needs. They think that “no one would hurt a child with a disability.” and that “ The disability protects them.”
On the other hand, even when they do believe that children with mental disabilities specifically had lived through this experience, they often dismiss the problem. The mindset of “Kids with intellectual disabilities can’t experience trauma because they can’t remember what happened”, is strong in many societies.
Moreover, adults aren’t teaching children about sexuality at all. Many believe that “It’s not appropriate to talk to kids with disabilities about sexuality. They can’t understand and it will just put ideas in their heads”. Thus, they are left unexplainably frightened and violated when they go through that horrifying experience. Furthermore, they can’t report it since, well, they don’t understand what happened to them.
These misconceptions, along with the stigma surrounding people with disabilities, have left these kids defenseless. Reports state that children with a disability are at least three times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than their peers. The vulnerability increases for children with multiple disabilities especially those with mental or communication disorders. Researchers also say that the abuse is more likely to be chronic and ongoing since the abuser will most likely have easy access to the victim. Furthermore, studies have shown that more than half of women with a developmental disability experience sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.
“It is a predator’s dream”
The response of Stephen DeProspero, a pedophile inmate serving 40 years in prison for filming himself sexually assaulting a severely disabled 10-year-old boy he cared for at a state institution in New Hartford, N.Y., sheds light on that kind of horrific behavior.
“There was nothing in the back of my mind that caused me to seek out a job with vulnerable people so I could take advantage of them,” he wrote in response to a query from NPR. “I wholly prided myself on doing a selfless job for people who are disabled and can tell you many nice stories about all the lives I touched in a positive way.”
after the boy’s family sued the state, DeProspero stated that it was easy to abuse the boy unseen in the house. “I could have stayed in that house for years and abused him every day without anybody even noticing at all,” he wrote. “It was a predator’s dream.”For weeks after the first cruel and horrific act, DeProspero says, he was “beside myself with guilt and grief.”
Therefore, he looked for another job but not before going back to sexually assault the boy one more time, and filming it as “a momento [sic] to remember him.” authorities only discovered the whole vile ordeal five years later and by accident.
Now imagine how many care workers going unseen while harming defenseless children. No one cares, no one listens, and no one is providing any solutions. Thus, monsters like DeProspero are thriving in an environment and societies that allow these things to happen.
Monahan, K. (2003, September 1). Disabled Women Sexually Abused in Childhood: Treatment Considerations. Clinical Social Work Journal. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1026008427707?error=cookies_not_supported&code=ad7a0502-3545-4d17-a09b-6c30ccb629fdNPR Choice page. (2018, January 8). S. https://choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/2018/01/08/570224090/the-sexual-assault-epidemic-no-one-talks-aboutProtecting Children with Disabilities from Sexual Abuse. (2020, June 12). Defend Innocence. https://defendinnocence.org/child-sexual-abuse-risk-reduction/proactive-parenting/reduce-risk/disability-child-sexual-abuse/#:%7E:text=Children%20with%20a%20disability%20are,than%20their%20typically%20developing%20peers.&text=When%20you%20look%20at%20research,between%2068%20and%2083%20percent.Protecting disabled children from sexual abuse. (n.d.). NSPCC Learning. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/2019/protecting-disabled-children-from-sexual-abuseSAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class research journals. (n.d.). SAGE Journals. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://journals.sagepub.com/action/cookieAbsent?journalCode=cmxa