Kecia’s #MeToo Story

WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault

Individuals with disabilities are seven times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those without disabilities. Kecia, sexual assault survivor-turned-advocate, is one of those individuals. She was raped, but justice was denied to her because of the failings of our criminal justice system. This is her story, in her words.

Kecia #MeTooI met this man at a self-advocacy meeting and we had very similar hobbies. I invited Michael back to my house to play chess with me. As soon as Michael entered my house, he started to kiss me and then drag me towards the couch where he proceeded to rape me.

I called the police after Michael left to report the rape. They sent a female investigator to take my report. After asking me questions, the investigator told me they would interview Michael about the rape and get back with me. Michael lied and said I wanted to have sexual contact with him. I was informed by a detective later in the week that the case closed since it was a “he said/she said” incident. For the record, I absolutely didn’t want to have any sexual contact with Michael whatsoever.

Shaken up, I called my social service agency for help and reported the rape to my case manager. My case manager listened and filled out a Special Incident Report (SIR) without offering any additional support.

I checked back with my case manager but she didn’t respond back to me for many days. I had to keep calling her to get a response. I never received a copy of the SIR report.

I am unaware if my case manager reported my rape to APS because I never received a visit from a social worker. I am totally unaware if my case manager told anyone else about my rape because once she took my report, she simply stopped responding to me.

The system had totally failed me—law enforcement, my case worker, and the case management agency. As a result of the system failing to help me, I sunk into a deep depression for several years with very severe physical and psychological events.

I am healthy today because I was referred to an excellent in-patient program with specialized therapy and a structured follow up that continues today. I have been in recovery for three years and have gained strength and found my voice so I can speak of the rape incident now.

Today I am an Abuse Awareness Prevention Advocate with the earnest desire to help other individuals rise from abusive situations and become stronger, like I am. It is because of the rape incident that I am a very strong person and I love to help others.

Kecia’s #MeToo story is a stark reminder that society needs to be discussing the very real risk individuals with disabilities are facing every day, every hour, and every minute in this country. This month, NPR released a powerful series on sexual assault and disability that included testimony from survivors – completely in their own words.

This series is drawing national attention to the epidemic facing individuals with disabilities, and we must keep the momentum on this issue going. Only then will we be able to change these jarring statistics and make systemic changes to ensure no victim has to suffer alone. All victims must have a way to tell their stories when they are ready, to be heard and believed, and to get the help they need to move from victim to survivor – just like Kecia did.

Kecia is helping others speak out and get help in many ways. One way is by supporting the work of The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®). Kecia is a National Advisory Committee Member and is working with NCCJD to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have equal access to the justice system, and that criminal justice professionals are well-trained to understand disability issues. She is also featured in the Talk About Sexual Violence project, which is a compilation of short videos for health care professionals to help them know how to talk to women with disabilities about sexual violence.

Every person has a role to play to STOP sexual assault and violence in the lives of people with disabilities. That includes you.

To support The Arc’s efforts, please contact us to learn how you can get involved in the #MeToo movement for people with disabilities. Share your story, engage leaders in your community, or make a donation.

#MeToo: Helping Women with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Talk Openly About Sexual Violence with Health Care Professionals

Sexual Violence Healthcare ProfessionalPrompted by recent news events, women everywhere are speaking up and sharing accounts of sexual violence. Social media feeds have been so inundated with tales of unwanted personal sexual encounters that it has sparked an online media campaign, punctuated by #MeToo. However, women with disabilities may face greater barriers to talking about their own experiences on social media or elsewhere. That’s why, before this hashtag went viral, The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®) and The Board Resource Center (BRC) teamed up to highlight the alarming rate of sexual assault among women with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Just this fall these two organizations, with the assistance of a one-year grant from The WITH Foundation, unveiled the Talk About Sexual Violence webpage that includes videos and other resources dedicated to building the capacity of health care professionals to empower female patients with I/DD to talk about and prevent sexual assault.

Research shows that nationally, 1 in 5 women without disabilities are sexually assaulted. However, women with disabilities face even grimmer statistics. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of violent victimization (which includes rape or sexual assault) of people with disabilities is more than three times higher than the rate for people without disabilities. A related survey conducted in 2012 found that out of over 7,000 respondents, only 37.3% of people with disabilities reported any type of victimization to authorities. Many societal factors have allowed this disturbing pattern to continue, including inexperience among health care professionals in broaching the topic of victimization in ways that are accessible and culturally competent for everyone.

Recognizing that health care professionals are in frontline positions to educate their patients about sexual violence, NCCJD® and BRC created easy-to-use resources to address this issue. The materials provide straightforward guidance on how to start a simple, direct and honest conversation with female patients about an all too common experience, and include two short videos: “How to Have the Conversation” and “Kecia Meets with Her Doctor”, available in both English and Spanish. Accompanying the videos are a variety of supplemental materials, including training and communication guides.

These resources are invaluable in the fight against sexual violence of women with I/DD, but the first line of defense is simply believing woman with I/DD when they disclose sexual assault, and listening to their experiences. The goal of The Arc’s Talk About Sexual Violence project is to support women with I/DD to be heard, believed, and supported by receiving prompt and effective medical care and healing services. Every woman deserves a safe environment to honestly admit “MeToo,” and to protect herself from sexual violence.

Sexual Abuse of People with I/DD a Global Scandal

By Theresa Fears, MSW. Theresa has been working in the field of sexual abuse prevention of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for 13 years. She created the Partnership 4 Safety program at The Arc of Spokane. The Arc has recently launched a National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability to address some of the issues highlighted by Theresa and provide resources for people with I/DD who are in contact with the criminal justice system.

rate of sexual abuse graphicSexual abuse of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is a huge problem.

Children and teens with I/DD are three to four times more likely to be sexually abused than are those without disabilities. Some researchers estimate that the lifetime rate of abuse of adults with disabilities is as high as 90 percent.

Childhood sexual assault has lifelong consequences. Childhood sexual assault has been connected to depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and an increased risk of sexual abuse in adulthood.

Adult victims of sexual assault may experience the trauma of not being believed or of being blamed for the attack and risking displacement from their homes or residences. Sadly, many victims do not receive therapy to help deal with the trauma of an attack. In a recent study, only 33 percent of victims received therapy after their sexual assaults. There are many false beliefs about those who offend. The most common is that they are strangers, but according to a number of authors, between 97 percent and 99 percent of assaults were committed by someone the victim already knew. Approximately 44 percent of the perpetrators were connected because of the victim’s disability. Perpetrators may include special education teachers, bus drivers, caregivers and other support personnel.

Research on risk factors for sexual assault of people with I/DD has been consistent over the last 20 years. The frequently reported risk factors are:

  • Lack of education about sexual development  and anatomy
  • Lack of information on abuse awareness
  • Lack of healthy relationship education
  • Lack of social norm education
  • Lack of age-appropriate friends

If sexual assault is a problem, then what is the solution? Prevention! There are three levels of prevention according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary prevention takes place before harm has occurred; its purpose is to stop sexual abuse from happening.

Secondary prevention happens immediately after abuse has occurred; its purpose is to prevent it from happening again. And lastly, tertiary prevention is a response to the harm of sexual abuse — generally therapy.

The CDC has recommendations for creating prevention programming based on years of evaluating what works and what doesn’t.

Providing prevention programming across the lifespan would require offering education to parents of people with I/DD and, children, teens and adults with I/DD.

The logical place to begin primary prevention therefore is with the caregivers of young children — the parents.

A solid parent education program should have three goals:

  • To  increase parents’ understating of  the rates of abuse and risk factors
  • To explain parental obligation to support children’s development as sexual beings and
  • To teach parents how to identify and challenge inappropriate or dangerous behaviors of any adult in a child’s life.

How can you begin a prevention program at your agency? First, look to the programs you already have for a natural fit. It would be easier to add sexual abuse prevention training to a parent education, information, support and advocacy program than it would to an employment program for example.

A good free parent education program is the “Where We Live” curriculum created by Pittsburg Action Against Rape (www.pcar.org/special-initiative). Although it is not written for children with I/DD, it can be easily modified. I would be happy to share this information with Apostrophe readers who are interested in beginning parent education in their community.

http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/pdf/VictimizationTBI_Fact%20Sheet4Pros-a.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_abuse_of_people_with_developmental_disabilities#cite_note-5

This article first appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Apostrophe Magazine (October-December).