Youth with disabilities face different challenges and have very different needs based on their ability. Some disabilities may put young people at higher risk for crimes like sexual assault or abuse. 83% of girls with disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
Unique risks for young people with disabilities:
- A youth who needs regular assistance may be in the situation of relying on the person who is abusing them, a common factor in elder abuse. The person who is abusive may use this power to threaten, coerce, or force the young person into non-consensual sex or sexual activities.
- An abusive person may take away access to the tools a person with a disability uses to communicate, such as a computer or phone.
- Young people with disabilities are less likely to be taken seriously when they make a report of sexual assault or abuse. They may also face challenges in accessing services to make a report in the first place. For example, someone who is Deaf or Deaf-Blind may face challenges accessing communication tools, like a phone, to report the crime or get help.
- Many people with disabilities may not understand, or lack information and education about healthy sexuality and the types of touching that are appropriate or inappropriate. This can be especially challenging if a youth’s disability requires other people to touch them to provide care.
Consent is crucial when any person engages in sexual activity, but it plays an even bigger, and often more complicated role for young people with disabilities. Some disabilities may make it difficult to communicate consent to participate in sexual activity, and sexual offenders may take advantage of this. People with disabilities may also not be given the same education about sexuality and consent that people without disabilities receive. In addition, someone who has a developmental or intellectual disability may not have the ability to consent to sexual activity.
In addition, young people with disabilities face stereotypes and discrimination from the larger population that doesn’t recognize them as sexual beings with the same developmental wants and needs as other youth.