It’s Happening, and We Can Stop It

By Mark Satterwhite

Statistics show that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are victimized (assaulted, abused, exploited) at rates much higher than others in the general public. The Arc of Missouri, an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting lives of dignity and inclusion for people with I/DD, recently launched a campaign to raise awareness of the problem. The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council is the funding partner in this project.  The ultimate outcome is to raise awareness about the prevalence of victimization, to increase reporting of victimization and to decrease the incidence of victimization. The campaign is entitled – “It’s Happening.”

The Arc has engaged Films for Humanity, a Kansas City-based firm whose mission is to “create films that stir the human spirit, raise awareness and inspire action.” There are already short documentary films posted on the website, profiling personal stories that are both tragic and enlightening in terms of raising awareness. The website also provides information, advice and resources for advocates as well as self-advocates. Watch Rusty’s story below:

The prevalence of victimization among people with disabilities is represented by staggering statistics that vary only slightly depending on the source. Some numbers from the website are as follows:

  • 70% of people with disabilities report they have been victims of abuse
  • 63% of parents and immediate family members report their loved one with a disability has experienced abuse
  • 90% of victims of abuse have experienced it multiple times
  • Women with I/DD are 10.7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other women
  • 90% of people with I/DD will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes

Ed Thomas, President of the Missouri Arc Board, emphasizes that the solution is not to segregate people with disabilities from the larger community as a protective measure. “Stranger danger across the board is a fallacy,” he says. “Most abusers are people well known to the victim – like a caregiver or a family member. The fact is that public settings are safer than isolated settings.”

Mr. Thomas, among others on the volunteer Board, through presentations, publications and discussion forums, are spreading what boils down to a single word:  call. If you suspect someone with I/DD is being victimized, call the Adult Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Hotline at (800) 392-0210.