One unstated reason is the resistance to acknowledge that yes, children with disabilities grow up and become teenagers and adults with disabilities who have all the hormonal and sexual urges as any of us. If an individual, like Jennifer and my son Charlie, has intellectual disabilities, there is a tendency to presume that she or he is “always” a kid and best to at stay hush-hush about these subjects.
One sign that we are stuck in thinking about autism and developmental disabilities as children’s issues, and in prioritizing the needs of children over adults, was the absence of any discussion of issues of sexuality, sex education and, yes, rape and sexual assault at a recent Congressional hearing on autism.
Silence and squeamishness do our children and all individuals with disabilities no favors. Of course children with disabilities go through puberty, a confusing period for any child that can be even more so for a child with minimal communication skills and minimal peer interactions. I know my son is very vulnerable. We more than appreciate the staff at his school; we are glad that everyone must have background checks and their fingerprints on file.
Besides taking essential precautions including making sure Charlie is never, ever alone, medical personnel, police and other first responders must all be trained. Procedures and protocols — like a rape kit and one that takes into account the numerous communication, intellectual and other disabilities of individuals Iike Charlie — needs to be developed and all personnel trained to use it.†Developing policies to protect Charlie and so many other individuals with disabilities is absolutely crucial as we seek to make this world a better and yes, safer, place for all to live in in.
Not being able to say you were raped shouldn’t be a reason to not investigate and to just let the attacker disappear.
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