Shining a Light on Violence Against People with Disabilities

On any given day in the United States, someone with an intellectual disability becomes the next victim of violence, and usually without much notice. This month, for example, a house manager at a group home for adults with intellectual disabilities in Maryland was charged with multiple counts of assault and reckless endangerment for physically abusing a resident. No one would’ve ever known, except the assault surfaced in a YouTube video providing clear evidence of the crime. And, one ESPN producer reached out to The Arc and other disability organizations recently about a story involving a coach accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year old participating in Special Olympics. Upon further research into the issue, the producer was so alarmed by the sheer number of people with disabilities who are sexually assaulted that they requested others to speak out in an effort to expand their report.

To the shock and disbelief of many, these disturbing instances of violence are commonplace in the lives of people with disabilities. The National Crime Victim Survey reveals that people with disabilities are twice as likely to become victims of crime compared to those without disabilities. Even more alarming, people with intellectual disabilities are more likely to be victimized compared to those with other types of disabilities (such as physical disabilities). The Arc receives calls from all over the country – from concerned family members, friends and people with disabilities themselves – seeking help and answers. They often need to know what to do next, where to get legal assistance, how to help an attorney understand intellectual disability, and how to find a qualified counselor to work through the trauma of victimization. Traditionally, victim advocates and disability advocates have not shared expertise and resources to address this issue, but that has slowly been changing over the past few years, creating more opportunities for victims with intellectual disabilities to obtain much-needed services and supports.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and this week, April 21-27, is Crime Victim’s Rights Week. It’s a perfect time for chapters of The Arc, other service providers and advocates to reach out to their local victim assistance agencies alerting them to the high risk of violence and victimization that people with intellectual disabilities face throughout their lives. The Office for Victims of Crime created a guide in 2012 for states wanting to take a team approach, bringing together law enforcement, prosecutors, adult protective, human services and self-advocates, to ensure equal access to the criminal justice system for people with disabilities. And The Arc offers fact sheets on a wide variety of topics including the Abuse of Children with Intellectual Disabilities and People with Intellectual Disabilities and Sexual Violence.

One thought on “Shining a Light on Violence Against People with Disabilities

  1. Hello! My name is Marie Drake. I am a media studies major and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am focused on film making. I also have ADHD.

    My older sister Brandy has cerebral palsy. She has a more severe case that has worsened as she has gotten older, though her mind is not affected. She is also my best friend.

    I have been around people with disabilities my entire life from many different degrees of autism to learning disabilities to varying degrees of physical disabilities. I have always been upset with the way that society treats people with disabilities. Society would rather much shove them to the side and forget about them as a person. I have also been angry at the alarming number of abuse/neglect cases of the disabled.

    I am starting a project that will focus of promoting awareness that people with disabilities are shoved in the back corner of society. They are taken advantage of. They don’t have equal rights, no matter what the government says. I want to call society out on the fact that a person will share an anti animal abuse video and strongly advocate for it, but will scroll by videos involving the disabled. I want to reach out the other rights groups (gay rights, animal rights, immigrant rights, etc.) to hopefully gain their support and getting the nation and the world to see that this is a problem, and act.

    I want to do this because the small community of family and friends that we have now that speak against the inequality and abuse of their loved ones is strong, but it’s not loud enough. Society cannot hear us yet. If we can come together on this project, I will dedicate everything I have to spreading this awareness through the media.

    If you or your loved ones would like to share your story, or even participate in interviews in the documentary it would greatly add to the cause that we all care so much about. If you are interested, you can message me here, or email me at

    This is very important to me, as I know it is important to you and your loved ones. Let’s scream to the top of our lungs until society makes a change.

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