Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Double whammy: people with disabilities more likely to be crime victims

I read a shocking and upsetting news story yesterday, about a Louisiana man who killed his own 7-year-old son by decapitating him. The child, Jori Lirette, had cerebral palsy and heart problems, a feeding tube, limited speech, and limited mobility. His father, Jeremiah Lee Wright, told police he was tired of taking care of the boy.

For every shocking case like this, thousands of other disabled children and adults are abused by family members or are victims of other types of crime. Many of them go unreported. Here are some sobering facts:
  • People with developmental disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to be victims of crime than other people are. (Sobsey, D., D. Wells, R. Lucardie, and S. Mansell. 1995. Violence and Disability: An Annotated Bibliography. Baltimore, MD. Brookes Publishing.)
  • More than half of all abuse of people with disabilities is estimated to be perpetrated by family members and peers with disabilities. Disability professionals (i.e., paid or unpaid caregivers, doctors, and nurses) are generally believed responsible for the other half. In addition, approximately 67 percent of perpetrators who abused individuals with severe cognitive disabilities accessed them through their work in disability services. (Sobsey, D. and T. Doe. 1991. “Patterns of sexual abuse and assault.” Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 9(3): 243259.)
  • Children with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more vulnerable to sexual abuse than their nondisabled peers (National Resource Center on Child Sexual Abuse, 1992).

I wish we could require people to take a parenting exam and psychological evaluation before becoming parents. Then we'd truly become the "nanny state" the Republican party goes on about. But then perhaps all children would feel safe, loved, and cherished.

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