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Rape of the Disabled: The Issue No One Wants to Discuss

Rape of the Disabled: The Issue No One Wants to Discuss
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In the past four years, residents with developmental disabilities at the state of California’s board-and-care facilities have filed 36 reports of molestation or rape by caretakers. Just reading those figures — which are very likely higher as many of these residents have intellectual, speech and other disabilities that make communication difficult — is alarming and all the more if you are, like me, the parent of a teenage autistic child who will be living in some sort of group home or other setting all too soon.

Even more alarming is that, as reports, the Office of Protective Services, the police force assigned to protect residents at California’s five developmental centers, did not carry out “even the simplest tasks” in investigating alleged crimes of sexual assault. Doctors and nurses at California’s five developmental centers are not trained to deal with sexual assault victims, also reports.

Most other police departments use a “rape kit” to collect evidence that is all the more crucial given the vulnerable population of the developmental centers. The examination, performed in a hospital by nurses, is considered the “best way to find evidence of sexual abuse”; without any physical evidence, solving sex crimes can be difficult to the point of impossible.

The Rape and Pregnancy of Jennifer

Police at the developmental centers simply did not order a hospital examination in any of the cases. Documents obtained by California Watch found that, of those 36 reports from 2009-2012 about molestation, forced oral sex and vaginal lacerations, only one arrest was made.

In the following case, an investigation opened by the Office of Protective Services did not proceed because the case relied very much on the verbal accounts of a now 32-year-old woman, Jennifer, who has severe intellectual disabilities, says

Many of the allegations were lodged by patients at the Sonoma Developmental Center in the town of Eldridge, where female patients have been repeatedly assaulted, internal incident records show. In one case, a caregiver was cleared by the police department of assault and allegedly went on to molest a second patient.

In another case, from August 2006, caregivers at the Sonoma center found dark blue bruises shaped like handprints covering the breasts of a patient named Jennifer. The patient accused a staff member of molestation, court records show. Jennifer’s injuries appeared to be evidence of sexual abuse, indicating that someone had grabbed her violently.

Jennifer became pregnant in the following months, during which the alleged attacker “disappeared.” Her parents are raising her five-year-old son and are suing California’s Department of Developmental Services. “I just imagine her being raped and screaming and crying for me. It just kills me,” says her mother.

In September, California governor Jerry Brown signed two bills that required the state “to alert outside police and a disability protection organization when patients die under suspicious circumstances, are abused or are seriously injured.”

The state agency that overseas the Office of Protective Services is now “working to improve sex-assault investigations and … hiring outside experts to train officers and detectives.” But these efforts seem not only too late, but too little.

Rape and Individuals With Disabilities: The Topic No One Wants To Talk About

Protecting individuals like Jennifer, my son Charlie and so many others from sexual assault is a topic that no one wants even to bring up. In general, the topic of sexuality is one that most people dance around, sometimes by referring to it via euphemisms like “safety” and “hygiene.”

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8:15AM PST on Feb 24, 2013

thanks Kristine

8:12AM PST on Feb 24, 2013

Children with learning disabilities have different levals of learning. Most of our schools the classes are too large 35 students to a class. The teacher doesn't have the time to spend with the children with mental disabilities, they fall through the cracks. The east coast have more schools with the ability to teach different . When you get to the country schools in the rural areas of our country , students with disabilities are just passed on. I know one girl that can't make change who graduated. There are a lot more. A lot of students just give up and quit school, this is sad. Ill. has a good project going, where they have pods that are just like homes where they are taught to cook, clean house, wash cloths, make change, even read if able to learn how. Then are put in apartments and some one looks in on them at least once a week. They also have jobs where they work and make money.But in regular classes I really don't know, as other children can be very unthinking and say things to them and call them names. No compassion.

5:18AM PST on Jan 28, 2013

They should be equally treated and get helped

5:34PM PST on Jan 27, 2013


6:48PM PST on Jan 16, 2013

Having worked with this subgroup of our culture I am well aware of these issues. Sadly it is difficult to get any action on it. Most women without issues (and the few males who come forward) have little chance of proving in a court of law. May guardians of people with disabilities don't even try to go there as the child with disabilities will be torn to shreds in court. The solution... I really don't know. Sexual assault is such a taboo topic and so often the victim gets blamed or told they are lying. Oh and if the Rep party (and probably Harper's party) is correct, women don't get pregnant when raped so those who do must be lying about what happened. Since many of the judges who are appointed are conservative and old school they take the side of the dumbasses who make the statements or assaulted the helpless individual.

11:01PM PST on Dec 29, 2012

thnx for raising awareness of this

8:00AM PST on Dec 27, 2012

WTF is wrong with people? raping disabled people?????? Who does that?? The world is just whacked out, I don't know what else to say, how insane.

7:00PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Rape is rape.

6:54AM PST on Dec 26, 2012


4:30PM PST on Dec 17, 2012

the people who make up society are in denial about rape in any case

the idea of rape of our most vulnerable is too much for some people to bear

What I hate is that if you acknowledge that this happens, it seems as if you are the one who is acting in bad taste

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