A sad, shocking reality is that people with different types of disabilities or special needs are sexually victimized at higher rates that is the case with the remainder of the population, according to the authoritative National Crime Victimization Survey. As an aside, there is a great deal of discussion over the use of the term “disability.” It is used here because it is the term utilized by the U.S. Department of Justice. The term is applied to people who’ve special needs when it comes to ambulatory or mobility issues, cognitive issues, self-care issues, or sensory difficulties. Understanding the unique challenges and needs of sexual assault victims of have disabilities of special needs is important.

Understanding That a Crime Has Been Committed

A moment ago, a listing of different types of disabilities or limitations was put forward. The reality is that some people have cognitive limitations that prevent a clear understanding that they’ve been sexually victimized. As a consequence, because they lack this level of understanding, they won’t be inclined to report appropriately or it at all.

This type of limitation necessitates ensuring that individuals with cognitive impairments of some sort have appropriate protective systems developed for them. For example, a person with a cognitive limitation may be fully mobile, may even spend time on her own in the community. Individuals with cognitive limitations should be encouraged to live as independent life as possible. This necessitates that people in their lives committed to keeping them safe take care to be proactive in paying attention to what is going on in the life of a person with some sort of cognitive limitation.

For example, if a person with cognitive limitations begins to report “having a boyfriend” or something similar, such a declaration must be investigated a bit further. The alarming, shocking reality is that there is a myriad of cases annually in which a victim of sexual abuse or assault who has some type of cognitive limitation processes this type of criminal activity improperly. They interpret an assault as being a type of appropriate adult conduct when it is anything but.

Lack of Consent and Legal Impossibility of Giving Consent

Bear in mind that individuals with certain types of cognitive limitations are not legally capable of consenting to sexual activity with another person. A person in such a position can become the prey of a sexual predator, an offender who attempts to shield assault and abuse under the veil of consent.

These types of cases can also prove challenging. The victim may even perceive that she has consented to sexual contact and interaction with someone else. However, because of a cognitive impairment, a determination previously was made that the victim is not capable of legal consent. A person may be the subject of a guardianship, for example.

These types of situations are also ones in which reporting sexual abuse by a victim is not apt to happen. A victim will not perceive that she has been sexually victimized. Once again, family and friends need to attune to statements by a person in this type of situation who begins to report “having a boyfriend” or something similar.

Caregivers as Perpetrators of Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse

Sadly, an alarming number of sexual assault cases involving individuals with some type of physical or cognitive limitation are perpetrated by their caregivers. Detecting that a person with specialized needs is being sexually victimized by a caregiver can be challenging. Indeed, the recent case of the woman in a coma who is discovered to be pregnant illustrates this point. No one was aware that sexual victimization was occurring until it was discovered that the victim was pregnant.

The prospect of caregiver sexual abuse and assault necessitates that loved ones or other individuals responsible for the welfare and wellbeing of a person be diligent in monitoring that individual’s situation. For example, regular medical exams that otherwise are scheduled should be expanded to include a physical examination of the body to identify any of the more telltale signs of sexual abuse. The fact is that in some cases evidence of sexual abuse can be detected, which might include bruising.

There exists no foolproof system of fully protecting a person with some sort of cognitive or physical limitation from sexual assault or sexual abuse. However, there are proactive steps that can be taken that lessen the odds of a person being victimized in this type of situation, as have been touched upon here.

A variety of crime victim resources exist, including for people who’ve been sexually assaulted or sexually abused. These include resources designed to compensate sexual assault victims for some of the losses suffered as a result of this type of crime. There are also resources for people who assist and support victims of these types of crimes who do have special needs of some type.


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.