People with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disability or mental illness, are at high risk of violence perpetrated against them,266 especially sexual exploitation. Children with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence than are their peers who are not disabled.144 Research suggests that 50–99% have been sexually exploited by the time they reach adulthood.267,268,269 Abuse may include intimate partner abuse, violence and sexual, emotional and financial exploitation.
People with intellectual disability (especially men) are also at risk of being accused of abuse due to their sometimes-poor understanding of appropriate behaviour and poor social and relationship skills.
Abuse of people with disabilities is most likely to be perpetrated by family members, support workers or co-clients of support services. It can be difficult to differentiate between ‘passive’ abuse such as rough handling, inattention and withholding of care information, and more purposive abuse, such as sexual and physical assault. Poor screening of support workers and drug and alcohol abuse by family members or support workers increase the risk of abuse.
Research has been undertaken to explore the issue of sexual abuse in women with intellectual disabilities and ways of helping family members and support workers develop skills to help in the prevention of abuse of people with intellectual disability.264,265
Other research has demonstrated that it is possible to teach people with intellectual disability skills in decision making and identifying the difference between healthy and abusive interactions. People have also been assisted to use these skills in their own life situations.270–272