What Are the Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse Among People With Disabilities?

Sexual abuse is a serious and prevalent issue in the United States and disproportionately affects individuals with disabilities or special needs. A yearlong investigation uncovered that people with disabilities are seven times more likely to experience sexual assault than those who are not disabled. In many cases, sexual assault goes unnoticed or unreported. Sexual assault survivors may not feel they will be believed or do not feel safe enough to talk about what happened. Below, we discuss some of the warning signs of sexual abuse.

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse Among People with Disabilities

If you suspect a loved one is a victim of sexual abuse, physical or behavioral warning signs may include:

Physical Warning Signs

A sexual assault survivor may have physical injuries, or there may be other physical evidence after the assault. According to The Arc, physical warning signs may include:
  • Cuts, bleeding and bruises
  • Pain in the genital areas
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Tearing of vaginal or anal area
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Headaches or abdominal pain
  • Stained underwear or clothing
  • Stained bedlinen
  • Missing underwear

Behavioral Warning Signs

Children, adults and elderly individuals who are survivors of sexual assault may experience a change in behavior after an assault. The change can be more significant for individuals with disabilities, who may be unable to communicate what happened to them. According to The Arc and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), these behavioral identifiers could include:
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Nightmares or other sleep problems
  • Inability to focus
  • Appetite changes
  • Crying spells
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • New fear of specific people or places
  • Changes in habits or mood
  • Changes in school or work performance
  • A negative view of his or her body, especially the genital area
  • Sexually inappropriate behaviors
  • Using words that are “too adult” for his or her age
  • Unexpectedly being less talkative
  • Inexplicable silence

What Can You Do About Sexual Abuse? Request a Legal Consultation.

Sexual abuse of people with disabilities occurs all too often. However, help and resources are available for survivors. If your loved one is a sexual assault survivor who has an intellectual or physical disability, an experienced attorney can help you understand your best legal options. The compassionate and experienced attorneys at Grant & Eisenhofer P.A. take cases nationwide. For a free consultation with an attorney at our firm, call (855) 244-2031 or submit an online form. Learn more about our attorneys and how we help.

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